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Cops investigating Texas shooting as possible hate crime: Police chief

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20 dead in mass shooting in crowded store in Texas, nine dead in second shooting in Ohio hours later

EL PASO, UNITED STATES Hours after a gunman killed 20 people in El Paso, Texas, another lone shooter took nine more lives in Dayton, Ohio, before being shot dead by police officers.

The two mass shootings in the United States, where firearms including assault rifles are freely available, have reignited debate about the nation's "epidemic" of gun violence.

Ironically, the El Paso shooting on Saturday morning took place at a Walmart store, which is often referred to as the world's largest gun retailer.

The police said the store was "at capacity" at the time, with up to 3,000 customers inside.

El Paso police chief Greg Allen said the shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime, as the authorities study an online manifesto linked to the 21-year-old suspect Patrick Crusius.

The suspect, who is white, surrendered to police outside the store. By then, the toll was 20 dead and 26 wounded.

Footage shot with smartphones appears to show multiple bodies on the ground in the Walmart parking lot while other footage shows terrified shoppers fleeing the store as gunfire echoed, AFP reported.

Echoing several witnesses, a woman, who gave her name as Vanessa, told Fox News that the gunman, who wore a black T-shirt, combat trousers and earmuffs, was shooting at random.

"It wasn't to any particular person. It was any that would cross paths," she said.

A US Army specialist Glendon Oakley, who was in the mall, told CBS News that he heard two gunshots and saw "a whole bunch of kids like, without their parents, running around screaming and crying, so I grabbed as many as possible".

Crusius, who is from a suburb of Dallas, a nine-hour drive from El Paso, had railed against the "Hispanic invasion" of Texas in his online manifesto.

About 83 per cent of El Paso's population of 680,000 are of Hispanic descent, US census figures show.

On weekends, the city attracts crowds of shoppers from Mexico, including from its Mexican sister city Ciudad Juarez, with a population of 1.5 million.

Three of the dead came from Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tweeted.

Six Mexicans were among the wounded.

El Paso congresswoman Veronica Escobar said at a press conference: "The manifesto narrative is fuelled by hate. And it is fuelled by racism and bigotry and division."

Crusius claimed that he was "defending" his country "from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion", AFP reported.

He complained the AK-47 rifle that he chose was "not designed to shoot rounds quickly, so it overheats after about 100 shots are fired in quick succession".

To counter this, he would wear a heat-resistant glove.

Crusius wrote that he probably spent less than a month preparing for the shooting.

"I have to do this before I lose my nerve," he noted.

He also described his death as "likely inevitable".

"If I'm not killed by the police, then I'll probably be gunned down by one of the invaders," he wrote.

He added that capture was far worse than dying during the shooting because "I'll get the death penalty anyway".

In the Dayton attack, almost 2,500km away from El Paso, the gunman opened fire on a street in the popular bar and nightlife Oregon district at 1am (1pm in Singapore) yesterday, killing nine people and injuring dozens more.

Dayton mayor Nan Whaley said at a press conference that police patrolling the area responded in less than a minute and shot the gunman dead, otherwise "hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today".

Ms Whaley said the shooter had a .223-calibre rifle with additional high-capacity magazines on him. Police have yet to identify him or his motive.

US President Donald Trump called the El Paso attack "an act of cowardice" on Twitter.

"I know that I stand with everyone in this country to condemn today's hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people," he added.

Chiding the Republican Party for its inaction on gun control, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "Too many families in too many communities have been forced to endure the daily horror of gun violence. Enough is enough."

USA Today, citing figures by the Gun Violence Archive, reported that more than 520 people have been killed and at least 2,000 injured in US mass shootings so far this year.