EL PASO — Nicolasa Velasquez's family said she visits the Walmart store near Cielo Vista Mall, a popular shopping center in this border city, almost every day. She was there Saturday morning looking to buy some drapes.
But as she left her car in the parking lot, she was shot in the chest and struck by a ricocheting bullet to the chin. She was with her 78-year-old husband Juan, who was also shot.
Soon after a gunman shot 66-year-old Velasquez and dozens of other shoppers, her family received a frantic call.
“My mom was screaming and crying like crazy,” Velasquez's granddaughter Daisy Fuentes told the American-Statesman. “And then some lady took the phone (from Velasquez) and told my mom to get here quick.”
Fuentes and her mom live in Denver, more than 600 miles away from El Paso.
The woman on the phone was Claudia Paniagua. She helped Fuentes’ grandparents onto a shopping cart and used it to push them to an ambulance. Fuentes has not met Paniagua — she only knows her from that frenzied phone call and some Facebook sleuthing — but Sunday morning she said she was “very thankful” for the woman who helped get her grandparents to safety.
Family members hug to each other outside the reunification center and others bring flowers, candles at Walmart where a mass shooting occurred on Sat. morning leaving at least 20 dead, 26 injured in El Paso on Sun. Aug. 4, 2019.#ElPasoShooting
Photos by@Statesman /@LolaGomezCpic.twitter.com/h3OTlzzja5
On the steps outside Del Sol Medical Center on Sunday morning, Fuentes said her grandmother was recovering and speaking to the family. But her grandfather, who was shot in the liver and suffered a heart attack during the shooting, remained in critical condition. He was headed into another surgery late Sunday morning.
Hospital officials said 11 of the 26 people wounded in Saturday’s shooting were transported to Del Sol. Eight patients remained at that hospital as of Sunday afternoon, with three in critical condition and five in stable condition, a spokeswoman said. Two patients has been discharged and another one was transferred elsewhere.
Dr. Stephen Flaherty, the hospital’s trauma director, praised the city’s overwhelming support in providing blood to victims and said it was imperative that El Pasoans continue to schedule appointments to donate blood.
A spokesman at University Medical Center of El Paso said 14 victims were brought there, one of whom had died. One of the patients had been discharged and two were children who were being transferred to El Paso Children’s Hospital. The spokesman said the hospital had no further details to add Sunday morning.
Officials have not said whether the other people who were injured were at another facility or have been discharged.
Among the 20 people killed in Saturday’s shooting was Jordan Anchondo, a woman who died protecting her 2-month-old son from gunfire, The Associated Press reported. Her son survived and was being treated for broken bones.
According to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, six of the victims killed and seven of the wounded were Mexican citizens.
The fear of finding their loved ones among the the dead was ever-present among people looking for them in El Paso.
For Fuentes, the worst part — even worse than the “longest drive of my life” from Denver to El Paso — was that “we couldn’t find my grandpa anywhere.”
She said the hospital had checked in her grandfather with the wrong name, so when she and her family called hospitals in the area, none had a record of him. Even though Juan Velasquez had been taken to the same hospital as his wife, Fuentes and her family didn’t know that until 3 a.m. Sunday.
Other victims' relatives echoed that sense of confusion to the American-Statesman on Saturday and Sunday.
But outside Del Sol, blowing in the wind and attached to a “no parking” sign near the entrance to the hospital, someone attached two neon posters — one yellow and one pink — with uplifting messages for passersby.
“El Paso Tx. doctors are angels. Stay strong El Paso,” read one.
“No hate can ruin our great El Paso city,” read another.
#ELPASOSTRONG: Support pours in following Texas mass shooting