Five months after the deadly shooting at an El Paso Walmart that left 22 people dead and 24 others injured, El Paso police officials revealed the name of the mystery man who was hailed for saving the life of a baby. According to USA Today, the man, whose image was flashed across TV screens in the aftermath of the incident, is Lazaro Ponce.
Earlier, Ponce, in a series of telephone interviews with El Paso Times, claimed that he was the “mystery man'”seen in a video that went viral shortly after the shooting. Following his interviews, Ponce contacted El Paso police detectives and the FBI, who interviewed him to examine the veracity of his claims. Officials also checked if Ponce’s claims matched eyewitness accounts and security camera footage.
Following the interview, police spokesperson Sgt. Enrique Carrillo confirmed that Ponce was indeed the man who was hailed as a hero in the aftermath of the shooting. The FBI, however, did not issue a confirmation citing a policy that bars them from confirming or denying the names of witnesses or victims of a crime.
According to Ponce, he and his wife were inside the store when the gunman, later identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, walked into the store with his WASR-10 rifle, a semi-automatic civilian version of the AK-47. The first few shots were fired in the parking lot, according to the store manager, who immediately issued a “Code Brown,” Walmart’s shorthand for an active shooter.
While several people were able to flee to other stores and adjacent malls, some others took shelter beneath tables and shipping containers. The shooter managed to kill 21 people and injure several others.
Crimes Against Persons is requesting the community’s help in identifying the person in the picture. His actions at
Wal-Mart were critical and lifesaving, he needs to be identified and interviewed by investigators. Call (915) 212-4040 pic.twitter.com/DpNRIWUrgH
— EL PASO POLICE DEPT (@EPPOLICE) August 15, 2019
It was in the midst of this chaos that Ponce rushed back into the store with a shopping cart and rescued the baby. He retrieved the infant from among the dead bodies, worried that the infant would have suffocated had he not retrieved it.
The security camera footage also showed him tending to victims, comforting them, and treating their wounds. At the time of the incident, he was staying with his wife in a makeshift camp near Walmart.
Meanwhile, the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office has said that Ponce is considered a witness and that he may be required to return to El Paso for court proceedings.
Ponce is a transient day laborer and has been homeless in the past. Born in San Antonio, Texas, Ponce spent a significant amount of his childhood in Juárez, Mexico. When he was 16, he went to Atlanta, where a large number of his relatives worked. Lazro currently lives in Memphis.