Palestine Mayor Steve Presley told the Herald-Press Saturday he worries "almost constantly" a mass shooting like the one in El Paso could happen here.
Presley, a Walmart pharmacist in Palestine, also said Walmart employees are regularly trained on managing and preventing incidents such as the mass shooting in El Paso. Training includes how to spot a disgruntled employee or customer who is becoming increasingly agitated and starting to lose control, as well as reporting such incidents to a store manager.
"I worry about something like that happening in Palestine almost constantly," Presley said in an interview, hours after a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage Saturday morning at an El Paso Walmart, leaving 22 dead and 26 wounded.
"Terrible things like that can happen anywhere," Presley said. "Our prayers go out to all the affected families."
Police have arrested Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, who remains in custody. Charged with capital murder, Crusius faces the death penalty.
Police are treating the shooting as domestic terrorism. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also called the shooting a hate crime; police are investigating Crusius' connection to an anti-Latino, anti-immigrant manifesto posted online.
"There's no room for hate in this world, yet some people seem to relish it," Presley said.
"As this world becomes more crowded, we've all got to learn to be more tolerant of people who are different than ourselves, and also appreciate that all of us are a lot more alike than we are different."
On its Twitter account, Walmart said it is working closely with law enforcement.
Last week, on July 30, a disgruntled Walmart employee in Southaven, Mississippi, walked into work and shot and killed 2 employees and injured a police officer.
Walmart employees go through active shooter training during orientation, and receive quarterly continuing education courses on the subject via computer.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said Walmart's “active shooter” training program most likely helped saved lives in Mississippi.
Presley said all Walmart employees are taught how best to defend themselves against a lethal threat, as well as given information about evacuation and "in-place shelter." Using a fire extinguisher, for example, could disarm a shooter.
"Walmart does an excellent job of training every single employee,” Presley said.
Walmart Palestine's Manager Adam Harding on Monday declined to comment on the company's active shooter training, other than to confirm it's important part of Walmart's training program.
Locally, Harding said Walmart has reached out to El Paso and offered their condolences and assistance.
On Sunday, another lone gunman in body armor opened fire in an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, killing at least nine people, before police fatally shot him seconds later.
Police identified the shooter as Connor Betts, 24, of nearby Bellbrook.
Betts, who reportedly did not have a police record, used an assault-style rifle, a .223 caliber weapon with high-capacity magazines.
High rates of gun ownership and concealed-carry licenses in East Texas could also deter mass shootings, Presley said.
"I'm thankful that in East Texas there are a lot of armed people who know how to use a firearm," he said. "In that sense, we have an advantage. People never know who's armed and who isn't."