EL PASO, Texas – The chief of the El Paso Police Department divulged more information about what happened once officers arrived to the scene of last Saturday’s mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Walmart.
Greg Allen also told the City Council how long investigators expect to have the scene blocked off.
Allen spoke from the podium before city representatives in City Hall on Thursday about their response to the call of shots fired, which came in at 10:39 a.m.
“Within six minutes, police officers from the lower valley — Mission Valley station — were on scene,” Allen said. “At that particular point in time, officers entered the store and began to search for the active shooter, which we found out later had already vacated the location.”
The shooter left, but not before wounding 27 and ultimately killing 22 people.
Police ended up encountering the shooter later shortly after 11 a.m. Officers took the suspect into custody at 11:05 a.m. while they were conducting traffic control at Sunmount Drive and Viscount Boulevard, less than half a mile away.
“This person complied with the stopping,” Allen told reporters after the briefing with city representatives. “He approached the officer, getting out of the car after being halted at the intersection, and that’s where he approached the officer with his hands up. He was taken into custody after he identified himself as the shooter.”
Allen told City Council that investigators expect to have the Walmart blocked off for at least three more weeks while they continue their investigation.
And that means the Walmart is still closed.
“The scene was a horrific one, something that no one should ever see,” Allen said to city council. “But needless to say, that particular event — it will be burned into people’s memories.”
Allen didn’t want to get explicit, but he gave reps an idea of the work being done by investigators at the Walmart.
“The scene is being screened off so that we can get down to the details of actually, uh, getting the minute evidence — and when I say minute, I don’t want to get gory, but the scene is picking up human remains that actually there,” Allen said. He paused before continuing. “And uh, well, just the ongoing processing of the scene, and that will probably go on for 20 days or so.”
Allen said later to reporters that three weeks is a conservative estimate.
“We’ve had incidents before where, over the passage of time, we’ve lost cases, or retrials have been done, simply because there were facts of the investigation done way back when that made that particular trial invalid for the person who suffered the consequences of what they did 15, 20 years ago.”
Allen said that the suspect is still facing capital murder charges, and that he is facing charges at a state and federal level.
Walmart has offered employees of that location job assignments at different stores across the city while it remains closed, according to Allen. (Watch the chief’s entire appearance before City Council in the video player below.)