President Donald Trump, who now hails the “incredible people” of El Paso, Texas and condemns the “hate” that apparently fueled Saturday’s mass shooting that killed at least 22 people in the city, just months ago unjustly and erroneously smeared the border community.
In his February State of the Union address to Congress, he derided El Paso as one of America’s “most dangerous cities” with an “extremely high” crime rate before a barrier was constructed along its boundary with Mexico— flatly contradicting the facts.
Democratic presidential contender and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native whose district included the city, complained to The Washington Post at the time that Trump is “just full-on, in the most racist terms, completely divorced from … reality” concerning its crime. He said the president “uses this to incite fear and paranoia.”
Authorities are now examining a “manifesto” echoing some of Trump’s same anti-Mexican rhetoric that allegedly was written and posted online shortly before Saturday’s shooting by the alleged killer, Patrick Crusius, 21. The manifesto refers to the “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and the massacre occurred at a Walmart known to be popular with Mexican-Americans and Mexicans.
El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said in a statement that it was “sad to hear President Trump state falsehoods about El Paso in an attempt to justify the building of a 2,000-mile wall. El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built.”
Construction of its border barrier wasn’t begun until 2008. In the 30 years ending in 2015, El Paso’s violent crime rate consistently fell “well below” rates in similar-sized cities, according to the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Reporting data, Snopes reports.
The violent crime rate in El Paso peaked in 1993 (similar to other U.S. cities), according to local and federal statistics analyzed by The El Paso Times. It fell by 34% from then to 2006. From two years before the wall was built to two years after, violent crime actually rose 17% before it returned to a downward trend.
Saturday’s death toll exceeded the yearly average of murders in El Paso over the last decade.
From 2009 to 2018, the city has averaged 16 murders annually, according to statistics released early this year by its police department. That number has been slightly higher in the most recent years ― the average has been 18 murders a year since 2014.