U.S. Army officials confirmed Monday that one of the El Paso shooter's victims, 60-year-old Arturo Benavides, was a former staff sergeant who served his country for 23 years in the active-duty Army and National Guard.
Benavides was standing in a checkout line at Walmart when the 21-year-old gunman entered the store and opened fire.
The Army vet's wife, Patricia, who was sitting on a bench nearby, was pushed into a bathroom, but Benavides was killed in the attack, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Before the gunman surrendered to police, he killed 19 other people and wounded 26 in the mass shooting Saturday near El Paso's Cielo Vista Mall.
Prosecutors in El Paso plan to pursue a criminal investigation, a civil rights hate crime investigation and "domestic terrorism" charges against the suspect, who has been identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius.
Benavides and his wife had a tradition of doing their weekly shopping at that Walmart every Sunday after church. But on Saturday morning, he decided to make the trip a day earlier than usual, the couple's niece Jacklin Luna told the LA Times. A GoFundMe page has been started to assist Benavides' family.
"It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of our loved one Arturo Benavides. He was an amazing husband, son, brother, godfather and uncle," the page description states. "He was an honored Army Veteran and well-known Sun Metro Bus driver. He will live on through his family and friends."
Benavides served in the active-duty Army from June 1978 to January 1984. He then joined the Texas Army National Guard in February 1984 and served until June 2001, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz.
During his service, Benavides served as a motor transport operator, cargo specialist and MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missile system crewman, Cruz said.
His awards include the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, and Adjutant General Individual Award from the Texas National Guard, Cruz said.
Benavides retired a few years ago as a bus driver for El Paso's Sun Metro, his 23-year-old niece told the LA Times.
"He was kind, generous, always willing to give everyone the shirt off his back," Luna said in the Times story. "People would look forward to riding on his bus. Regulars would only ride with him. That says a lot."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.