Palestine Mayor Steve Presley told the Herald-Press Saturday he worries "almost constantly" that a mass shooting like the one in El Paso could happen here.
"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 20 dead and 26 wounded.
"Terrible things like that can happen anywhere," Presley said. "Our prayers go out to all the affected families."
The sole suspect in the mass shooting has been identified as Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas. Crusisu remains in custody.
Police are investigating what motivated the shooter, including the possibility the mass shooting was a hate crime. The suspect had reportedly posted online a manifesto of some sort.
"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.
“We're in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, where store 2201 & club 6502 are located,” Walmart tweeted.
“We’re praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders. We’re working closely with law enforcement & will update as appropriate."
Presley, a Walmart pharmacist in Palestine, said all Walmart employees are given yearly training on managing and preventing incidents such as the one that occurred 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.
Presley also 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.
"They put us through training every year,'' Presley said. "Walmart does an excellent job of training every single employee."
High rates of gun ownership and concealed-carry licenses in East Texas could also deter mass shootings here, 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."
President Trump has pledged his full support.
Adam Harding, general manager of the Palestine Walmart, and Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey were not immediately available for comment.
Most of the victims were at the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall.
The Walmart was busy and up to 3,000 people were shopping at a mall across the parking lot, Sgt. Robert Gomez said at a news.
Videos posted to social media show shoppers scrambling for cover with their hands up