Suspected El Paso gunman's mother called police before rampage, attorneys say

The 21-year-old's mother was said to be concerned about him owning an “AK” type gun, given his age and maturity level.

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By Phil Helsel

The mother of the 21-year-old man accused of killing 22 people at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart called police weeks before the shooting concerned that her son owned an "AK"-type gun, the family's attorneys said Wednesday.

Chris Ayres and R. Jack Ayres, who represent the family of suspect Patrick Wood Crusius, told CNN that the man’s mother called police in Allen, Texas, over concerns about the firearm given his age, maturity level and lack of experience. They say the mother was transferred to a public safety officer who said that based on her description, her son was an adult legally allowed to own the weapon.

Ayres confirmed to NBC News that the details and quotes ascribed to them are correct. It was not clear if the weapon that the mother asked police about was the same weapon used in the attack Saturday in the crowded shopping center.

Patrick Crusius.El Paso Police Department

The attorneys said the mother's inquiry was "informational" in nature and was not motivated out of a concern that her son posed a threat to anybody, according to the CNN report.

They also told the network that the woman did not provide her name or her son's name and that police did not seek any additional information before the call concluded.

The Allen Police Department has previously said only three minor incidents appeared to be its contact with the suspect. After the CNN report aired, the department on Thursday said it had reviewed its records to try and locate the reported call and found one made June 27.

“On Thursday, June 27, 2019 at approximately 11:15 a.m., a call came into the main line of the department. Although informational calls to the main line of the department are not recorded, an internal security camera recorded one side of the conversation,” Allen police said in a statement.

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“The Public Safety Officer answered informational questions about firearms possession and ownership and additionally inquired about the emotional state and intentions of the person who had ordered the weapon,” Allen police said in the statement Thursday. “The information relayed by the caller did not warrant additional law enforcement involvement because, as reported in the CNN news article, the caller indicated that her inquiry “was not motivated out of a concern that her son posed a threat to anybody.”

The department said a public safety officer is a non-sworn employee who provides information and minor or delayed calls for service, and it is not uncommon for police employees to handle informational calls related to firearms or firearm possession.

Previously, the department said that "our contact with that person can be described as limited at best," referring to the suspected gunman.

In 2019, the suspect called to report a false residential alarm at his grandparent's home; in 2016, the suspect was listed as a "student/passenger" on a school bus involved in a minor traffic accident; and in 2014, as a juvenile, he was reported as a runaway but returned home around 30 minutes later, Allen police said.

Allen is north of Dallas and about a nine-hour drive from El Paso.

The suspected gunman's family said this week that his actions "were apparently influenced and informed by people we do not know, and from ideas and beliefs that we do not accept or condone, in any way."

The suspect is thought to have posted a screed online before the attack in which he expressed anti-immigrant views and included talking points about preserving European identity in America.

"He was raised in a family that taught love, kindness, respect and tolerance — rejecting all forms of racism, prejudice, hatred and violence,” the family said in the statement dated Tuesday and released by their attorney.

In the online screed linked to the alleged gunman, the author claimed to have developed his beliefs before Donald Trump became president. He criticized both Democrats and Republicans and expressed anti-government and anti-corporate views.

But some Democrats and other critics of Trump say the president’s rhetoric on illegal immigration has created a climate that emboldens extremists. Trump and his defenders have denied his rhetoric was to blame for the mass killing and accused Democrats of playing politics.

The attack is being investigated as a potential federal hate crime.

El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza said Sunday that he will seek the death penalty.

“I will use every legal tool available to me to prevent that from happening,” his attorney, Mark Stevens, said in a statement Wednesday.

The accused shooter’s family said they “are focused on the lives lost, those struggling in their recovery and the countless families and friends of those affected by this atrocity.”

“There will never be a moment for the rest of our lives when we will forget each and every victim of this senseless tragedy,” the family said in its statement.

The weapon used in the attack has been described as a semi-automatic rifle. The writer of the online screed posted before the attack mentions having an AK-47-style semi-automatic rifle.