A visibly shaken Beto O’Rourke announced Saturday he was cutting a campaign swing through Nevada and California short to return to his hometown of El Paso, Texas, following early reports of a fatal shooting there.
Multiple people were killed Saturday in the area of the Cielo Vista Mall, according to local police.
“I’m thinking about El Paso, I want you to be thinking about El Paso as well,” O’Rourke told the audience, taking the stage Saturday at a labor union forum in Las Vegas.
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman also shared that he called his wife, Amy, immediately after he received the news.
“She’s driving with my daughter Molly and to talk to her,” O’Rourke said, his voice wavering. “Just a real reminder of what’s most important at the end of the day for all of us.”
O’Rourke said that the shooting shatters “any illusion that we had that progress is inevitable or that the change that we need is going to come of its own accord.”
“There is no luxury in this democracy of sitting this one out, whether it is gun violence, whether it is many of the issues we discuss today,” O’Rourke said, adding, “It is on every single one of us to make this right.”
When asked on stage at the forum about how he would combat gun violence as president, an emotional O’Rourke said he believes direct action and movements from people across the country can help laws get passed.
“Universal background checks, a stop to all sales of weapons of wars, some initial reports were that it was a military style weapon or weapons used in Cielo Vista Mall, keep that s*** on the battlefield, do not bring it into our communities, I don’t want to see it in our malls or in our schools or in our churches or in our synagogues.”
Soon after his appearance, O’Rourke told reporters he was incredibly saddened.
“It is very hard to think about this,” he said. “But I tell you, El Paso is the strongest place in the world. This community’s going to come together. I’m going back there right now to be with my family and to be with my hometown.”
When initial reports of a shooting surfaced, O’Rourke tweeted, “Truly heartbreaking. Stay safe, El Paso. Please follow all directions of emergency personnel as we continue to get more updates.”
O’Rourke was born in El Paso and in 2012 was elected to represent Texas’$2 16th Congressional District, which includes El Paso and the surrounding area.
On the campaign trail this cycle, O’Rourke often discusses his successes in El Paso and talks about the effects of certain issues and policies on his hometown.
O’Rourke was in Nevada to make several campaign stops. The news of the shooting broke right before O’Rourke took the stage at the AFSCME forum. The campaign confirmed O’Rourke will be skipping his later stops on Saturday in Reno and Minden, Nevada, and Monday in San Quentin, California, to return to El Paso.
President Donald Trump also weighed in on the “terrible” shooting. He said he was working with state and local authorities and law enforcement. “Spoke to Governor to pledge total support of Federal Government,” Trump wrote. “God be with you all!”
Vice President Mike Pence echoed those sentiments, tweeting, “Our prayers are with the victims, their families, and the entire community.”
More 2020 candidates weigh in
Other 2020 Democratic candidates also responded to the shooting while attending the labor forum hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Marianne Williamson, a native of Houston, offered prayers for the people of El Paso and “prayers for all the rest of us as well, that we might summon up the courage to remove this scourge from out midst.”
Julián Castro, formerly the mayor of San Antonio, called the shooting “truly devastating.”
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said his grandmother, who he visited in Texas as a kid, used to take him to Cielo Vista Mall.
“Now it’s one more mass shooting scene. How many more must grieve before we act?” Buttigieg said.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker advocated for gun reform “before it happens to yet another community, before another person dies,” and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock told reporters, “My (heart goes) out to the folks in Texas.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard offered thanks to the first responders for “putting their lives on the line to prevent more from being killed.”
While Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren offered a stark warning to the country, tweeting, “We must act now to end our country’s gun violence epidemic.”
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi reported from Washington, D.C. Caroline Kenny and Daniella Diaz reported from Las Vegas. Harmeet Kaur, DJ Judd, and Sarah Westwood contributed to this report.