August 5, 2019 / 9:39 PM / 12 days ago

Mexican man who shielded wife in Texas mass shooting dies

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican man who threw himself in front of his wife to shield her from bullets in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, died on Monday, officials and his family said, raising the toll of Mexican nationals killed in one of two weekend mass shootings in the United States to eight.

Juan de Dios Velazquez, who was caught in Saturday's shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S., is seen in this undated photo provided by his family, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico August 5, 2019. Must on screen courtesy Velazquez Family/via REUTERS

Juan de Dios Velazquez, 77, had moved to El Paso with his wife Estela Nicolasa, 65, from Ciudad Juarez, just across the border in Mexico, six months before they were caught in Saturday’s mass shooting at a Walmart store.

“He couldn’t fight anymore, his heart started to fail,” said Idaly Velazquez, a niece who confirmed his passing to Reuters. Estela, who was hit in the stomach, was also operated on and is now stable.

The rampage, followed 13 hours later by another in Dayton, Ohio, has sparked outrage in Mexico, where officials are contemplating litigation alleging that the incident was terrorism against Mexicans living in the United States.

That could open the door to an eventual extradition request for the gunman.

El Paso is a bilingual city on the U.S.-Mexico border with a long history of attracting Mexicans to settle with their families a short distance from their hometowns, or simply to visit for weekend shopping sprees.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who was visiting El Paso, tweeted “unfortunately, Juan de Dios Velazquez Chairez, originally from Zacatecas, died. Our condolences to his family and friends. 8 nationals have died as a result of Saturday’s terrorist act.”

Velazquez underwent several surgeries at the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso after the bullet punctured his organs, another niece, Norma Ramos, said on Sunday from Ciudad Juarez.

Her uncle was shot at close range and the bullet passed through him and hit his wife, Ramos told Reuters.

The deaths on Monday raised the total to 22, El Paso police said on Twitter.

(This version of the story corrects first name of man’s niece in eighth paragraph to “Norma” from “Nicole”)

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Writing by Delphine Schrank; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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