Robert Evans is the manager of the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso. He was on duty on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 3, when he saw a man raise a weapon and shoot dozens of people, ultimately killing 22. Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider spoke with Evans on the sidelines of an El Paso Chihuahuas baseball game. It was the Minor League team’s first home game since the tragedy.
Warning: This conversation contains graphic descriptions of violence.
Schneider: What can you tell us about what you remember of the day of the attack?
Evans: It was a pretty tragic thing. You don’t expect that to happen on a typical Saturday in El Paso at 10:30 in the morning. I was out in front of the building, and the shooter came up from the parking lot and fired some rounds off. I saw a customer drop out in the parking lot, and then he continued to proceed toward the front of the building.
He fired continuous rounds off toward the center of the building, striking … a little girls’ soccer fundraiser. The parties that were all in that area, he struck a couple of people there. Children were running. The girls were running, and I made my way back into the store to get customers and associates out of the building to the back, paging code browns and 'active shooter, shooter, everybody run to the back. Get as far back as you can. Hit the fire exits … keep on going to the movie theater, to the mall, and just continue running. Don’t worry about anything in here.'
About halfway through getting inside the store, you could hear the shots. Several rounds of fire were going off inside the store. Kind of really didn’t stop. We got a lot of people out of the building. 'Which way do we go?' Kind of assist people climbing up landscaping and rocks. They were in wheelchairs or had oxygen tanks or things of that nature. It was just really emotional trying to get people out of the building as fast as you could.
Schneider: What’s it been like for you in the days since?
Evans: The past four days have been a little strenuous. I met with a lot of my associates … my Wal-Mart team that were there. The ones that weren’t came by, and we’ve had time to meet and regroup and sit down and support them and kind of get them to back to a kind of normal routine and get them to start the process of healing. We’ve been doing that for the past four days. It’s been nonstop. As soon as I got off the scene, which was about 9:30 that night, I was right back at it on Sunday, talking with associates and giving them comfort.
Schneider: How important do you think it is for the community to have something like this game so soon after the attack?
Evans: I feel it’s good. It brings us together. And not to forget, but it gives us a sense of relief. It brings a sense of confidence, being able to participate in public events, things of that nature. Sit down and watch a baseball game, relax with your family, friends. I think it really kind of nurtures your mind and helps in the healing process as well.