EL PASO, Texas — Walmart plans to reopen the El Paso store where 22 people were killed in a mass shooting this month, the retail giant said Thursday, but the entire interior of the building will first be rebuilt.
The renovated store will include an on-site memorial honoring the victims of the shooting, many of whom were Latino, and recognizing the "binational relationship between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez" just across the border in Mexico, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said. The project is expected to take three to four months.
Nearly all of the 400 employees at the El Paso store have been reassigned to other nearby locations, Hargrove said, and the Arkansas-based company believes reopening the store is "an important step in healing from this tragedy."
"Nothing will erase the pain of Aug. 3 and we're hopeful that reopening the store will be another testament to the strength and resiliency that has characterized the El Paso community in the wake of this tragedy," Hargrove said.
Flowers, crosses and handwritten messages now adorn a makeshift memorial outside one of the store's entrances. Hundreds of residents have visited in the wake of the shooting, where social workers hand out bottled water and offer counseling services.
Many shoppers from Ciudad Juarez went there because it is the closest Walmart to the four border bridges that connect to El Paso. Eight of the people killed in the shooting were Mexican citizens. The vast majority had Hispanic names.
Authorities took more than 10 days to finish processing evidence before returning control of the property to Walmart.
In the days after the shooting, Hargrove said the company is reviewing security protocols. Walmart launched computer-based active shooter training in 2015 and has since increased frequency of its instruction and added a virtual reality component .
Police said the suspected gunman, Patrick Crusius, confessed to targeting Mexicans in the attack. They've also said that the suspected shooter is the likely author of an anti-Latino screed published shortly before the shooting. It criticized race-mixing and called Hispanics "invaders."