Councilmember Carlos Menchaca’s phone rang constantly on Saturday as news of the deadly mass shooting in El Paso spread.
Menchaca, a Democrat who represents Sunset Park and Red Hook, grew up in El Paso and has relatives still living in that Texas city on the U.S-Mexico border, including his mother, Magdalena.
“It took time to reach my mom,” Menchaca told the Home Reporter on Monday. “It was terrifying. We have a big family and I was able to reach my siblings. But it took awhile for everyone to check in.”
He was greatly relieved to learn that all of his relatives were safe.
One of his sisters had a close call, however.
“My sister was on her way to the mall where the Walmart is located. But she was slow to get ready to go,” Menchaca said, adding that she didn’t wind up going.
Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, there were so many people reaching out to Menchaca to express concern for his family, the lawmaker felt compelled to post a statement on Twitter to reassure everyone that his relatives were safe.
“Thank you for all of your messages. My mom and family are home, safe, but they are in shock,” Menchaca wrote on Twitter. “I want to thank the first responders who continue to monitor the situation.”
Menchaca, who was first elected in 2013, is the first Mexican-American to serve on the New York City Council. He won a second term in office in 2017.
The local pol urged his Twitter followers to think of the 20 victims who were killed and the 26 others who were injured in the horrific Texas shooting. “Keep El Paso in your thoughts,” he tweeted. “We are going through a lot right now.”
On Monday, two days after the shooting, Menchaca’s family members were still too shaken to leave their homes, he said. “They don’t feel safe,” he told the Home Reporter.
Menchaca has a personal connection to the place where the deadly rampage took place. “I worked in the mall when I was in high school,” he said.
The suspect, identified by CNN and other media outlets as Patrick Crusius, 21, allegedly walked into a Walmart store next door to the shopping mall on Saturday and opened fire, killing 20 people and injuring 26.
Less than 30 minutes before the shooting, an anonymous person posted an anti-Hispanic white nationalist manifesto that federal authorities believe might have been written by Crusius on the imageboard website 8chan.
Crusius, who is being held without bail, has been charged with capital murder, a crime punishable by the death penalty.
CNN reported that the U.S. Department of Justice is treating the shooting as a case of domestic terrorism and is said to be considering charging the suspect with hate crimes.
The El Paso massacre, along with a shooting on Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, in which a gunman opened fire and killed nine people, shook the nation to its core and led to calls for a ban on assault weapons.
Menchaca tried to focus on the positive in the wake of the mass shooting in his hometown. “In El Paso, we take care of our own. And our own is everyone,” he said.