CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke on Thursday crossed into Mexico for the funeral of one of the 22 people killed in a shooting at a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso, Texas.
The victim was among eight Mexican nationals who died in the attack last weekend, according to Mexican officials, who have called the shooting an act of terrorism against their citizens on U.S. soil.
The gunman is believed to have written a racist, anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly before the shooting began Saturday. O'Rourke, who was raised in El Paso and represented the city in Congress for six years, said after walking across the international bridge into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, that he was there "to remind the world that we are a binational community."
O'Rourke said the family that invited him to the funeral asked that he not identify the victim.
"I have a lot of pride in this community right now," he said. "We need to share that message right now because there's a lot of hatred, a lot of racism, a lot of violence being directed, a lot of terror being directed toward these communities right now."
O'Rourke was campaigning in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting, but since rushing home has become one of the biggest voices in a community coping with tragedy. O'Rourke has blamed President Donald Trump's rhetoric for spreading fear and hate, leading Trump to tweet that O'Rourke should "be quiet."
When Trump visited El Paso on Wednesday, his motorcade passed protesters holding "Racist Go Home" signs. Trump and the White House have forcefully disputed the idea that he bears some responsibility for the nation's divisions.
But at another funeral on Thursday for Elsa Mendoza, a Juárez elementary school principal killed in the El Paso attack, her brother couldn't help but draw a line between the killing of his sister and Trump's rhetoric.
"Let's see what we can do to stop this racism because it's not fair," Leopoldo Mendoza said. "This is purely a consequence of the president of the United States being racist toward Mexicans."
The suspected gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, has been charged with capital murder. El Paso police say Crusius drove more than 10 hours from his hometown near Dallas to the mostly Latino border city, and believe he wrote a lengthy screed before the attack that rails against an influx of Hispanics into the United States.