A Black father reacted quickly to protect his 16-year-old daughter when a gunman opened fire at a crowded mall in Allen, Texas, on Saturday afternoon.
Geoffrey Keaton and his daughter were having lunch at Fatburger inside the Allen Premium Outlets when they heard gunshots and said he immediately knew what was happening.
“I immediately knew,” Keaton told The New York Times. “I got my baby girl under the counter to shield her, then they got louder like he was right there.”
He said that the restaurant’s manager allowed customers to hide in the back, and they were able to exit through a rear door to get to their cars.
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“You could see bodies of people he had shot on the sidewalk,” Keaton said to The New York Times.
Mauricio Garcia, 33, was identified by authorities as the gunman that killed eight people and wounded seven before being killed by an officer already at the mall for an unrelated call. The victims’ ages reportedly ranged from 5 to 61 years old. Garcia used an AR-15-style weapon during the attack and reportedly received firearms training as a security guard.
According to CNN, Garcia worked as a security officer from 2016 to 2020 for three separate companies.
Before being commissioned as a security guard, he reportedly received Level II and Level III training required by all commissioned security officers in Texas. It included firearms training and the demonstration of firearm proficiency, according to vice president of Ranger Guard Jonah Nathan.
Garcia also reportedly completed a separate firearm proficiency training course that required six hours of continued training.
In addition to his extensive firearm training, authorities also are investigating if Garcia was motivated by right-wing extremism. He was reportedly found to have an insignia on his clothing that read “RWDS.” Authorities believe it may stand for “Right Wing Death Squad.”
Police also reported that he was wearing armored ballistic gear and had multiple rounds of ammunition.
Police searched his parents’ Dallas home and the extended stay motel where he was staying. Investigators are also looking through Garcia’s social media and online accounts to look for clues about whether he may have had links to violent extremists and like-minded individuals, according to CBS.
Investigators are also reportedly looking into possible affiliations he may have with prison gangs and cartel members.
Keaton said in a Facebook Live post during the incident that the shooting was a result of people not feeling loved.
“This happens when people don’t feel loved and don’t have God. I love all y’all, for real. All it takes is one,” said Keaton in his Facebook Live post.
He also posted another video on Facebook showing him and his daughter along with several other people, hiding in a back room of the outlet mall.
The Texas Mall shooting was the fourth mass shooting in a one-week span and the 199th in the U.S. in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It is also the second mass shooting in Texas in a week.
Before the outlet mall shooting, the latest one occurred in Midtown Atlanta when a 24-year-old gunman opened fire at Northside Medical facility that left one dead and four wounded.
Kris Brown, president of Brady gun violence prevention, gave a statement about the violence that happened in a short span.
“A house, a doctor’s office, and now a mall,” Brown said to The New York Times. “These horrific tragedies are occurring with increasing regularity, and it’s clear there’s no place in this country where Americans are safe from gun violence. But this will continue to be our reality unless and until the U.S. changes its relationships with guns and our lawmakers finally answer to the American people, not the gun lobby.”
Four of the seven victims wounded in the mass shooting are being reportedly treated at Medical City McKinney Hospital near the Dallas suburb. Police said one patient is in fair condition and the other three remain in critical condition. One wounded individual is in fair condition and was transferred to Medical City Plano. Another individual was sent to Medical City Children’s Hospital and is also in fair condition, according to Allen Police Department.