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The mass shooting in Buffalo is hitting home for some people in El Paso, Texas


Funerals began today for the ten victims of the mass shooting in Buffalo. Meanwhile, the racist attack has stirred up emotions nearly 2,000 miles away, in El Paso, Texas. That's where a white gunman opened fire in a Walmart to kill Latinos nearly three years ago. Angela Kocherga from member station KTEP reports.

ANGELA KOCHERGA, BYLINE: When people in El Paso heard the news about Buffalo, they were immediately struck by the similarities with the mass shooting in their own city. Tito Anchondo lost his brother and sister-in-law in the Walmart attack.

TITO ANCHONDO: I just think it's very strange that it was almost exactly the same, and of course it brought back some feelings.

KOCHERGA: The gunman accused in each of the attacks both traveled hours to reach their target - supermarkets filled with shoppers on a Saturday - and both young white men posted hate-filled screeds online before their deadly rampages. During the Walmart shooting, Adria Gonzalez helped some older shoppers escape. The Buffalo shooting made her flash back to the bloodshed she witnessed.

ADRIA GONZALEZ: Anxiety kicked in. Memories came back from that morning inside the Walmart shooting, August the 3.

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KOCHERGA: County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, who's the highest locally elected official in El Paso, was horrified that someone had carried out a nearly identical hate crime.

RICARDO SAMANIEGO: When it happens over and over again, now it becomes greater - a greater impact because each one is building up on the other of how people feel.

KOCHERGA: Rather than lone wolves, the alleged killers could be considered copycats - learning from each other. In his screed, the 18-year-old New Yorker arrested for the Buffalo shooting referenced the Texan charged with the El Paso killings. Both of the alleged gunmen wrote that they were inspired by yet another racist mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. Though the crimes share similarities, El Paso families know each life lost is grieved individually. Healing is personal, Anchondo says.

ANCHONDO: It's hard losing somebody, but the good thing is that we're here to keep their memory alive, and we need to stay positive and do good things in their memory.

KOCHERGA: His brother and sister-in-law died shielding their infant son at Walmart. Anchondo now helps raise the 3-year-old, who survived. Anchondo started the El Paso chapter of a non-profit organization that helps crime victims and their families. Right after surviving the Walmart shooting, Gonzalez also set a goal.

GONZALEZ: I did say that I was going to get pregnant and I was not going to lose hope.

KOCHERGA: Her baby girl is due in October. She's already picked out a name.

GONZALEZ: (Laughter) Victoria - she's a blessing, a miracle baby.

KOCHERGA: While Gonzalez is creating new life, Samaniego says it's also important to find inspiration in the lives lost.


KOCHERGA: Water gently cascades from small fountains in front of a wall with 23 plaques - one for each victim of the El Paso shooting.

SAMANIEGO: I think that's the other message is that - create something somewhere - not only for them, but for the entire community to heal, I think, was very helpful to us.

KOCHERGA: The Healing Garden is in El Paso's largest public park. Twenty-three trees are surrounded by brightly colored flowers. The rose bushes are now in full bloom. A vigil here is planned for Sunday to honor the Buffalo victims.

For NPR News, I'm Angela Kocherga in El Paso.

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Angela Kocherga | KTEP EL Paso