El Paso Walmart reopens with added security on site

About 50 shoppers lined up Thursday ahead of the reopening of a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman police say was targeting Mexicans opened fire in the store and killed 22 people.

On the day of the attack, Walmart didn’t have a security guard on duty. But as the doors opened to the public for the first time since August, shoppers streamed into the renovated space, they passed dozens of sheriff’s deputies, security guards and store employees. Workers greeted customers with cheers of “Welcome back to Walmart!”

Walmart has quietly hired off-duty officers at its stores in El Paso, Texas, since Aug. 3, when police say Patrick Crusius drove more than 10 hours from his grandparents’ house in a Dallas suburb to carry out the attack. Crusius, 21, pleaded not guilty.

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More than 3,000 people from largely Latino El Paso and its neighboring border city Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, were at the store when the attack happened.

Among the visitors to the reopened store was Eddie Medina, who walked out carrying a frozen turkey and wearing a T-shirt in honor of his wife, Cecy Medina, a Walmart employee who survived the shooting while working in the women’s clothing section.

The shirt reads: “My wife is a cancer survivor and a Walmart survivor. She is El Paso Strong.”

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Medina, 62, said recent months have been difficult for his wife; her yearlong fight with cancer ended in May, but was followed by her mother’s death and then the shooting. She’s been seeing a psychiatrist paid for by Walmart, but she’s still too traumatized to return to the scene of the crime.

The retail giant reopened the store amid ongoing lawsuits over security on the day of the mass shooting.

Officials rebuilt the store’s interior after it took crime scene specialists more than 10 days to process blood and bone fragments at the scene.

“There was a time that Walmart hired off-duty officers and for some time prior [to] August 3rd that ceased,” El Paso police spokesman Enrique Carrillo said in an email to the Associated Press. 

When Police Chief Greg Allen first revealed the phasing out of officers during a City Council meeting, council members discussed possibly requiring that off-duty officers be hired at large stores, though the idea hasn’t been implemented.

John Furner, Walmart CEO for its U.S. business, said on an earnings call Thursday that El Paso store workers wanted the location reopened “to get back to a normal way of life.”

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Some victims are suing Walmart over what they saw was a lack of security on the day of the attack. One of the plaintiffs, 56-year-old Arnulfo Rascón, was shot in the knee and said he can’t work because of the injury.

Rascón said he expects to receive a letter this month telling him how much money he will receive from the One Fund El Paso, a victim’s relief effort set up after the shooting by a group of El Paso-area nonprofits.

“The whole world promises to help but when the moment comes, they don’t,” he said. “My savings are dwindling.”

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