During his visit to El Paso, Texas, four days after a horrifying mass shooting there killed 22 people and injured dozens more, President Trump appeared to criticize the accused killer for giving up too easily.
Trump told law enforcement personnel in El Paso on Wednesday that the alleged shooter was “a coward,” as quoted by BuzzFeed News reporter Claudia Koerner.
Trump calls the El Paso gunman a “coward” while speaking to local law enforcement. “He gave up, just gave up."
— Claudia Koerner (@ClaudiaKoerner) August 7, 2019
“He gave up, just gave up,” Trump said, as quoted by Koerner. The bizarre “he gave up” quote was also reported by Bloomberg News.
El Paso Police Department Sgt. Robert Gomez told reporters the suspect, who drove over nine hours from Allen to El Paso, was “taken into custody without incident” and without any law enforcement officers firing their weapons. The shooter later told investigators he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible, two law enforcement officials told ABC News.
Minutes before he began his rampage, he shared an anti-immigrant manifesto on the 8chan online forum, warning readers of a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. The language in the manifesto was similar to the language repeated by Trump.
Many twitter users were baffled by the president’s remarks to members of law enforcement, with one Twitter user asking, “Huh? Trump didn’t want him to stop??”
Another wondered, “What the heck does that mean?” while one wrote, “So he would have had words of praise for the domestic terrorist if said terrorist had gone down in a hail of bullets from law enforcement?”
Some speculated that Trump was deliberately attempting to “encourage the next right wing terrorist to increase the body count and not be taken alive.”
Trump also boasted about the crowd size at his El Paso rally in February, telling members of law enforcement, “We could have sold it out four times.”
In a video recorded during his visit Wednesday to the University Medical Center of El Paso that was still treating the victims of Saturday’s massacre, Trump again bragged about his crowd size while attacking a political rival.
“I was here three months ago and we made a speech,” Trump told hospital workers treating the victims of this weekend’s mass shooting. “What was the name of the arena? That place was packed.”
Trump then shook hands with a man off-camera who said he was in the front row of the February rally.
Trump also attacked “crazy Beto,” a reference to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
“That was some crowd,” Trump said in the video. “And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had 400 people in a parking lot.”
A city official said this week that the Trump campaign still owes more than $500,000 for police and public safety services related to the rally Trump bragged about during his visit Wednesday.
Just a few miles away that night, O’Rourke held a counter-rally that drew thousands of attendees.