ALLEN, Texas — In the weeks before a gunman killed 22 people in a devastating rampage at an El Paso Walmart, the suspect’s mother called the police concerned about whether her 21-year-old son was mature or experienced enough for the powerful AK-style rifle he had ordered.
In a short telephone conversation with the police in the Dallas suburb of Allen, the mother did not raise concerns that her son, Patrick Crusius, was a danger to others, a lawyer for the family said. She was seeking information, the lawyer said, but she did not give her name or her son’s name, and nothing further came of the call.
It was one of many moments that family members, former classmates, neighbors and others who crossed paths with the suspect are now scrutinizing as they search for some missed warning sign or omen of the hate-filled massacre that erupted in El Paso.
Two days before the shooting, the suspect had spent time with his twin sister, the family’s lawyer said, and he had been at his grandparents’ suburban home in Allen as late as Friday night, before the police said he made the 10-hour drive to El Paso and started shooting Saturday morning.
“He wasn’t volatile, he wasn’t erratic, he wasn’t isolated,” said the family lawyer, Chris Ayres, referring to the last time the family had seen the suspect.
The suspect grew up in Allen with his twin sister and an older brother. His father, a therapist who specialized in addiction recovery, and his mother, a nurse who also worked at a local high school that Crusius briefly attended, divorced in 2011.
He was more recently living with his grandparents in a different neighborhood in Allen and attending a local college, but the family said he had moved out about six weeks before the shooting. It was unclear where he had been staying.
People who knew him were reluctant to discuss the suspect’s past, saying they did not want to turn the public conversation away from the victims or their concerns about racism, anti-immigrant rhetoric and gun violence in America.
The suspect’s family seemed to share that sentiment.
“Patrick’s actions were apparently influenced and informed by people we do not know, and from ideas and beliefs that we do not accept or condone, in any way,” the family said in a statement. “There will never be a moment for the rest of our lives when we will forget each and every victim of this senseless tragedy.”
After going to the local college for two years, he moved out of his grandparents’ home and “was trying to decide what he was going to do next,” Ayres, the family lawyer, said. He said he could not say where Crusius had been living, but said the family had not had a falling out and had stayed in regular contact with him.
But there was one development that concerned his mother: Her son had recently ordered a military-style weapon. Her call to the Allen Police Department was first reported by CNN.
“It was an informational call based off of his age, maturity and lack of experience handling a weapon,” said Ayres, who said the police told her that, according to the law, her son was allowed to have the weapon. “It was in no way, shape or form something that was out of concern of him being a threat.”
Sgt. Jon Felty, a spokesman for the Allen Police Department, said the police had found no records of the call from Crusius’ mother, and had done an extensive search of their records and turned up no threats or arrests.
One of the fundamental questions of the shooting is still unanswered: how and when the suspect became radicalized. He said he spent a lot of time on the computer, and a manifesto connected to him appeared on the site 8chan, a go-to resource for violent extremists.
By last weekend, the authorities said, Crusius had made the long drive to El Paso, a border town that is 80% Hispanic. The police said he got lost in the city and stopped at the Walmart because he had been hungry.
As the deaths of 22 people gripped the nation, and were shortly followed by another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, Crusius’ community in Texas encouraged one another via social media not to give the suspect added attention.
“You can refer to the terrorist’s manifesto to receive truthful insight on the reasoning behind this attack,” one former classmate said in a message. “That is the clearest and most informative evidence as to what kind of person would do something like this.”