Revealed: Hero who saved baby from Walmart shooting was homeless man
A heroic civilian who saved a baby during a mass shooting at a Walmart in Texas has been identified as a homeless man who also returned to the store to help treat the wounded.
Security footage from the attack last August, which killed 22 people and injured dozens more, showed Lazaro Ponce carrying an infant away from the scene of what was the eighth deadliest shooting in modern US history.
Police were quick to put out an appeal to help identify the then-unknown Mr Ponce, whose actions at the El Paso store were hailed as “critical and life-saving”.
Five months on, Mr Ponce came forward and was interviewed by FBI agents in Memphis, Tennessee, where it was confirmed that he was the man in the video.
El Paso Police Department described him as a “hero” and said he “helped save several lives”.
Sergeant Enrique Carrillo said: “Not only did he remove the baby from among the dead bodies, it could have suffocated, he ran out and turned the baby over to emergency services personnel.
“He ran back into the store and with a shopping cart went to the towel section and went around treating the wounded and applying pressure.”
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The baby Mr Ponce saved was two-month old Paul Anchondo. His mother Jordan Anchondo and father Andre Anchondo, both died in the shooting.
Mrs Anchondo’s sister Leta Jamrowski told the Associated Press how her sister had been holding the baby when she died and fell on him as she collapsed onto the floor, breaking some of his bones but shielding him from gunfire.
Baby Paul was later seen in a heavily-criticised photo shared by First Lady Melania Trump, who held him up as she beamed for the camera during a visit to a local hospital where many of the injured were treated.
President Donald Trump was also in the picture, grinning and giving a thumbs-up.
Mr Trump had been met with protests upon his arrival in El Paso.
Mr Ponce now lives in Memphis, but at the time of the attack was living with his wife in a makeshift camp near the store, which was packed with up to 3,000 people when the gunman opened fire.
Many shoppers would have been buying back-to-school supplies, with the attack happening on 3 August – not long before the new term was due to start.
Mr Ponce told the El Paso Times newspaper that as well as the baby, he also helped a man in a wheelchair and an elderly woman who had been shot in the arm.
He said he was now working as a labourer and was staying on the property of a colleague.
Following the shooting, police arrested suspect Patrick Crusius, 21, who has pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges that were handed down in September.
Authorities linked Crusius to a four-page document posted on an online message board that appeared to describe the motives for the attack, and featured extreme anti-immigrant and racist views, particularly against Hispanics.
The manifesto also mentioned support of the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, when 51 people died after a gunman opened fire at two local mosques last March.
The El Paso shooting prompted Walmart to stop selling ammo for handguns and some assault-style rifles nationwide after coming under pressure to change its policies on gun sales.