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Up First: The Aftermath Shootings In Texas And Ohio, And Questions On Domestic Terror

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On Up First, we usually try to bring you a diverse range of stories from across the globe each morning; today is not one of those days because we are focusing on two mass shootings here in the U.S. carried out not even 24 hours apart. The first took place in El Paso, Texas, and that is where you are this morning, right, David?

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Yeah, we just landed here, Rachel. And it's amazing - I mean, the guy who drove us from the airport was touched by this. His friend lost her uncle in the shooting at the Walmart here. He shops in that Walmart every single day almost with his family. And so you just get a sense that everyone was touched.

So it was Saturday morning this past weekend when this gunman walked into a Walmart, opened fire, killed 20 people, injured more than two dozen others. Police have the suspected shooter in custody now. They believe he is the author of a hate-filled anti-immigrant document posted online detailing his reasons for carrying out this attack. And the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas John Bash says that investigators are now considering the shooting an act of domestic terrorism.

And I'm sitting next to journalist Monica Ortiz Uribe, whose hometown is El Paso. She's covering this story. Monica, thanks for taking the time this morning.

MONICA ORTIZ URIBE, BYLINE: Sure thing, David.

GREENE: What do we need to know as of this morning, as this Monday begins?

ORTIZ URIBE: Well, we're beginning to know more about the families who were impacted. There's so many heart-wrenching stories. One of them is of a mom who died seemingly shielding her 2-month-old infant from the gunman. And among the injured are three soccer coaches who were fundraising at the Walmart for their youth team. In the hospital lobby yesterday, a local pastor Michael Grady - he's a former president of the El Paso NAACP - he broke down into tears as he hugged the county judge who was there visiting with the families.

MICHAEL GRADY: I'm here today because my daughter Michelle Elise Grady was coming out of Walmart and was shot three times by a madman. Michelle had just turned 33 July the 11th.

ORTIZ URIBE: Michelle was about to go into her second surgery when her father and I spoke. He tells me bullets hit her hand and her back, another ricocheted through her pelvis. She is the second of three sisters and works helping military vets access their medical benefits.

GRADY: She's just a beautiful, beautiful daughter. We love her, and we're praying again for divine intervention. And we're mixing faith and medicine together so that hopefully she will be able to recover.

GREENE: We're all pulling for her. Monica, we're - I mean, we're sitting here on an upper floor of a hotel and can literally look at Mexico across the border. This is a tragedy that has affected two countries.

ORTIZ URIBE: Yes. As of Sunday night, Mexican officials announced that seven Mexicans died in this shootout. I spoke with the brother-in-law of one of the victims, Ivan Manzano. Ivan sold medical supplies in neighboring Ciudad Juarez, which we're looking at from outside this window. He leaves behind a wife and a 9-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter.

He's among the many, many Mexican shoppers who contribute to the local economy on a daily basis. This Walmart is a quick 15-minute drive from the border. Walking into that store, you'd immediately get a sense of the bilingual, bicultural character that is El Paso.

GREENE: And just briefly - what do we know about the suspected shooter here?

ORTIZ URIBE: We know he's a 21-year-old white male. He is possibly linked to this manifesto that refers to the, quote, "Hispanic invasion of Texas." This man is from a suburb outside Dallas. The FBI believed he acted alone, and he's currently booked in the county jail without bond, facing a charge of capital murder.

GREENE: OK. Monica Ortiz Uribe, a resident of El Paso, journalist covering this story, with us here in El Paso. Monica, thanks so much.

ORTIZ URIBE: You're welcome.

MARTIN: So we're going to talk more about that four-page manifesto that Monica referenced there, right, David?

GREENE: Yeah. So it was posted online on this messaging board 8chan just before the shooting, and it describes how the attack was a, quote, "response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." Now, El Paso's police chief confirmed that the ratings are being directly attributed to the gunman. As of this morning, the 8chan site is currently offline.

MARTIN: NPR's Hannah Allam covers homegrown extremism for NPR, and she joins us now in the studio. So before we get to the status of 8chan, Hannah, can you just give us some background? What is this platform?

HANNAH ALLAM, BYLINE: Sure. 8chan began in 2013 as a spinoff to another site, 4chan. And a computer programmer named Fredrick Brennan - he said he was on a psychedelic mushroom trip at the time - had this idea to create a truly unrestricted forum - free speech, no boundaries.

He has since given up control of the site and has called for it to be shut down because 8chan has become a gathering place for extremists. We've seen white nationalists use it for recruiting and increasingly as a place to dump their manifestos before going on the attack, and that's what's happened three times so far this year - mass shootings targeting Muslims in New Zealand, targeting Jews in California and now Latinos in Texas.

MARTIN: All three of these connected to 8chan?

ALLAM: That's right. This was the place where those manifestos first appeared. And I talked to William Braniff - he's the director of the START Center, a terrorism research center at the University of Maryland - about what purpose it serves to put those statements on a site like 8chan, and here's what he had to say.

WILLIAM BRANIFF: It really feels to me like these manifestos are being aggregated into an ideology that is sort of a living ideology, right? And this gives individuals the ability to feel like they can become not just a foot soldier in the movement, but a voice, a touchstone, someone who will be referenced by the next individual.

ALLAM: And so, as we heard, what he is describing is the copycat or cascade effect of these attacks, and we saw that in the El Paso statement, where the suspect begins by saying he supports the Christchurch shooter.

MARTIN: Wow. Harrowing to think of this all building an ideology in real time. Tell us now about the site. It's down now, correct?

ALLAM: It is. But this apparent knockout blow didn't come from authorities or from the site's owners; it came from the service provider Cloudflare. That's a digital security firm. It protects 8chan, many other clients from cyberattack. And the CEO, Matthew Prince, has been under a lot of pressure to pull the plug on this. He'd been resistant, telling The New York Times and in other interviews that he felt it set a dangerous precedent to do that.

But he apparently had a change of heart because overnight there was an announcement that Cloudflare is dropping 8chan as a client. And in a statement explaining why, Prince cited the mass shooting manifestos and said, quote, "The rationale is simple - they've proven themselves to be lawless, and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths."

MARTIN: But Hannah, if this firm that protects 8chan from a cyberattack is not connected to them anymore, does that mean they can just find someone else to do that job? I mean, does 8chan - can they just find somewhere else to pop off?

ALLAM: There are competitors, and that's how we got 8chan in the beginning, as a spinoff. So that - there's definitely skepticism about the effect.

MARTIN: Hannah Allam, who covers homegrown extremism for us. Thank you so much, Hannah. We appreciate it.

ALLAM: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: So just hours after the massacre in El Paso, a shooter opened fire in Dayton, Ohio. It happened in this part of the city that's a big destination for nightlife - lots of restaurants and bars. And at this point, we know that a 24-year-old white man shot pedestrians as he walked down a busy street in this district. It happened shortly after midnight on Sunday morning. Nine people were killed, including the gunman's sister. Less than a minute after the shooting started, police shot and killed the suspect.

NPR's Brakkton Booker is in Dayton for us this morning. Brakkton, before we get into the details of the investigation, you were at a vigil last night. Hundreds of people were there. Can you just describe the scene?

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: Absolutely. Now, Rachel, I've been to more of these vigils than I'd like to remember. I've been to Parkland and Pittsburgh, and just a couple of months ago, I was in Virginia Beach. Now, at this one, there was singing and prayer. Even 10 doves were released - one for the survivors and the other nine for those who lost their lives Sunday morning.

At one point, though, one something that stood out to me was when Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine, addressed the crowd. At first, he was received politely, but eventually he gets shouted down. And it was a little hard to make out, but I have some tape here when a crowd erupts into chants of do something, do something. Take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE DEWINE: ...We do tonight by this amazing crowd...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Do something. Do something.

DEWINE: ...Is to say...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Do something.

DEWINE: ...to them that we love you.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Do something. Do something.

DEWINE: We care very, very deeply...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Do something.

DEWINE: ...About you.

BOOKER: Now, after Governor DeWine spoke, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley reminded the crowd that this vigil was for healing, and action to urge new gun legislation would come at a later time.

MARTIN: So where do things stand with the investigation right now, Brakkton? I mean, law enforcement said that the shooter was a 24-year-old white man. That we know. He was heavily armed. What else?

BOOKER: Yeah, they really paint a picture of someone who intended to inflict maximum carnage. The gunman was wearing a mask and a bulletproof vest and hearing protection, and the weapon used in the attack was a .223 caliber assault-style rifle, and he had a 100-round drum attached to it. Now, at least six officers reportedly fired on the gunman, and they said they neutralized him within 30 seconds of shots being fired. Now, the gun was purchased legally, and Dayton police say that there's no reason to believe that he shouldn't have the gun in the first place.

MARTIN: But, I mean, it's just notable that it happened so quickly. They were able to take this gunman down, but still at least nine lives were lost in that duration.

BOOKER: Including his sister Megan Betts, who was 22 years old. She is one of the youngest victims, who range from 22 to 57. Now, six of the victims were black, and Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl was asked if race played a factor in the shooting, and here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARD BIEHL: We have no evidence to suggest that there is a biased motive in this crime at this time.

BOOKER: He said no but left the door open, saying at this time. So we'll see what the investigation turns up as we continue.

MARTIN: NPR's Brakkton Booker reporting for us on the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that happened in the early hours of Sunday morning. We are covering the details of two massacres over the weekend, in El Paso as well. Brakkton, thanks. We appreciate your reporting.

BOOKER: Sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLOGS' "5/4") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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