Saturday’s mass shooting inside a Walmart in El Paso, Tex. that left 22 people dead and almost 30 injured shocked the nation. News of the carnage was especially distressing for New York Giants offensive lineman Will Hernandez.
Hernandez played his college ball at the University of Texas-El Paso. He described himself as “heartbroken” over the senseless loss of life in the city where he “basically grew up”.
“Heartbroken to see El Paso in this condition, prayers go out to anyone affected by this tragedy. I know the people of El Paso are strong and will get through this. Love this city and GOD Bless!!” Hernandez posted to his Twitter account.
Hernandez, 23, was a four-year starter for the Miners, one of the few bright spots on a team that went winless in his final season. He was born and grew up in Las Vegas where he was on the verge of being homeless. He even lived in a relative’s storage shed for two years. Hernandez’s fortunes changed when he received a football scholarship to UTEP that changed his life.
El Paso is a city of more than 680,000 residents, more than 80 percent are of Latino origin. The shooting took place about five miles from the Mexican checkpoint with Cuidad Juarez. At least six of the victims in Saturday’s shooting are Mexican nationals. Hernandez himself is of Mexican descent.
After Monday’s practice, Hernandez’s mind was on the people of El Paso.
“That city is really important to me,” Hernandez said. “I love the people of El Paso. It gave me so much. It put me on the path that led me to the NFL. El Paso’s very dear to my heart. I felt that even being here.”
Hernandez said he immediately reached out to friends who live in the area after learning about the shooting. All of his friends were safe. He plans to keep in contact with them in the days ahead to see if there is anything he can do to help out.
While Hernandez prepares for the Giants’ Thursday preseason opener against the New York Jets, he will keep the people of El Paso in his thoughts and prayers. He believes the city will come together in an effort to make sense of what has happened…and to heal.
“I know the people of El Paso. I know the kind of character they have,” Hernandez said. “They’re strong people. They’re not the type to just let something like that completely tear them down. They’re strong people and I know they’ll rally and get through this. They’ll get stronger from this.”
Patrick Crusius, 21, was arrested without incident and charged with capital murder. Crusius could face the death penalty. The federal government is treating the massacre as an act of domestic terrorism and are “seriously considering” hate crime charges.