Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
A gunman killed eight people Saturday afternoon and wounded at least seven more after he opened fire at an outlet mall in Allen, creating a scene of panic and bloodshed in the latest mass shooting in Texas.
The massacre ended when a police officer who had responded to the mall for another reason quickly arrived and shot and killed the gunman, who authorities said acted alone.
Police did not release any information about the shooter or his victims in a pair of brief press conferences that offered few details of the shooting. But a spokesperson for a nearby hospital system told the New York Times that the ages of the injured range from 5 to 61 years old.
Local police responded to the shooting just after 3:30 p.m. at Allen Premium Outlets north of Plano, an outdoor shopping center with restaurants and clothing stores. Allen Fire Chief Jon Boyd said that seven people were declared dead on the scene. Two more died at the hospital. Of the others hospitalized, three were in "critical surgery" as of 9 p.m. Saturday, Boyd said.
Videos from the scene posted on social media showed people sprinting away from the stores in the parking lot as shots rang out. One showed a gunman stepping out of a car just outside the mall and opening fire at people on the sidewalk.
One shopper told the Associated Press that he was in an H&M store when he heard gunshots and employees escorted him into a lockable back room. When he was able to leave, he saw broken glass, sandals and bloody clothes, according to the AP. Outside the store, he saw bodies covered in white towels. News helicopter footage showed covered bodies arranged on the sidewalk.
“I pray it wasn’t kids, but it looked like kids,” the witness, 35-year-old Fontayne Payton, told the AP.
Joseph Adams, 45, told The Dallas Morning News that he fled a Nike store with his 12-year-old son after hearing gunshots and shattered glass that sounded like a car had driven through the building. He said he exited the building, tried to drive away and, after seeing wounded people on the sidewalk, stopped to help them staunch the bleeding with clothes from his truck.
”People were yelling for help, for ambulances, as cops drove by looking for the shooter,” he told the paper. “It was just chaos."
Hundreds of people were at the mall at the time of the gunfire, and could be seen in footage from the scene afterward evacuating with their hands in the air or gathering in the parking lot outside.
Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement he was in contact with Allen Mayor Ken Fulk and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw to offer “the full support of the State of Texas,” including DPS officers and Texas Rangers.
“Our hearts are with the people of Allen, Texas tonight during this unspeakable tragedy,” Abbott said in a statement.
The shooting comes only weeks before the first anniversary of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, which prompted fresh calls for new gun safety legislation. Those calls were renewed after five people were killed by gunman in San Jacinto County late last month. But any new measures to restrict access to firearms has so far proven elusive this Legislative session. A measure to raise the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle in the state from 18 to 21 appears likely to miss a deadline to pass out of a House committee on Monday.
The U.S. Congress passed landmark gun legislation for the first time in almost 30 years last summer in response to the shooting. Texas’s Sen. John Cornyn and Uvalde’s U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, both Republicans, took flack from their own party for championing the bill in Congress. The Texas Republican Party cited Gonzales’ vote for the bill in a censure motion against him earlier this year.
Still, both Gonzales and Cornyn have also resisted further measures for gun control, including from families of Robb Elementary students, who demanded more restrictions for semi-automatic weapons.
The gun bill invested millions of dollars toward state crisis intervention programs, strengthened background check requirements and created barriers for dating partners who have been subject to protection orders from buying guns.
Texas Democrats swiftly put the blame on Republicans who have resisted gun control legislation, with the Texas Democratic Party tweeting: “Texas Republicans allowed another mass shooting to happen in Allen, TX tonight. Malls are not safe. Schools are not safe. Public spaces are not safe. Permitless Carry is wreaking havoc amongst Texas and the country.”
The Texas Legislature voted to allow people to carry handguns without a permit in 2021, the first legislative session after mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa-Midland. State Rep. Jeff Leach, a Republican whose district includes the scene of the shooting, was one of the co-authors of that bill.
"There are many many people in our community tonight who are hurting, whose lives have been shattered and who need and deserve our collective prayers," Leach said.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, tweeted: “Another mass shooting here due to Abbott and the GOP’s loose and dangerous gun laws. More blood on their hands.”
Multiple elected officials responded with calls for prayer.
“Please join Jan and me in mourning the victims of the unspeakable tragedy in Allen,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, said in a statement. “Please also join us in prayer for the victims’ families and friends along with the residents of Allen. We are grateful for our brave first responders who were deployed to stop the shooter and investigate this hideous crime.”
In response to the shooting, U.S. Rep. Keith Self, a Republican who represents Allen, emphasized mental health, saying during an interview with CNN’s Paula Reid that “many of these situations are based on” the closures of mental health institutions. He added he wanted to “stay away from the politics” and focus on prayer for the families of the victims.
When Reid asked for his response to the common criticism that prayer is not a replacement for meaningful gun safety legislation, Self responded: “Well, those are people that don’t believe in an almighty God who is absolutely in control of our lives.”