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After Texas mall tragedy, one survivor begins living with bullet wounds

Irvin Walker II at Medical City McKinney on May 16. Doctors say that they cannot safely remove all of the bullet fragments that are in his body, including one dangerously close to his heart. (Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/AP)
8 min

MCKINNEY, Tex. — Irvin Walker II, 46, doesn’t recall seeing the shooter approach his car as he looked for a space in the crowded outlet mall in the Dallas suburb of Allen.

The next thing he remembers, though, were blasts from a gun. Shards of glass and a hail of bullets rained through his car window. The bullets hit him in the shoulder and chest, sending so many fragments into his body, face, neck, arm and one dangerously close to his heart that doctors say they can’t safely remove all of them. Still, he is alive.

He was released Monday from the hospital to start rehabilitation and continue healing.

“I face a long recovery, but God showed brightly and gave me an opportunity to fight,” Walker said during a news conference last week at Medical City McKinney hospital, where he has undergone at least two surgeries since the May 6 mass killing. “Evil is not going to win.”

Mass shootings are occurring so often in America that the killings are becoming noticed only in terms of the tragedies of lives lost. The nation this year has witnessed the highest number of mass killings and deaths in a single year just in the first five months of 2023.

Since 2006, at least 2,884 people have died in 554 mass killings, according to a database maintained by the Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. In Allen, eight people including children were killed, while seven were wounded. Mass killings often leave behind victims such as Walker who survive such tragedies and face a lifetime of coping with the mental and physical effects of lasting wounds.

“Some of those bullet tracks were so extensive, we just had to open him up and clean everything out underneath,” said Elizabeth Kim, trauma medical director at Medical City McKinney Hospital.

But many of those wounds are nowhere close to being fully healed, and he needs to work on range of motion in his shoulder, she said.

“I’m so proud of how he’s doing right now,” she said. “But he is still just in the beginning process of healing.”

Texas mall shooting victims included young sisters, security guard

There was one notable hero in Walker’s story: a 20-year-old security guard on a Segway who rushed to the aid of victims caught in the fusillade of bullets.

“I ran toward him, and he proceeded to tell me to have a seat,” Walker said. “I was running, then I started jogging, then I started walking fast.”

Walker paused.

“Then he was behind me,” he said. “After that, tragedy occurred.”

What happened next was Christian LaCour was one of the eight killed in the shooting.

Walker said he has “nothing to say about the shooter.” But as the horrific killings at the mall shattered families, the conversation around guns continues to intensify.

It’s evidence that not enough is being done about gun control, Daryl Washington, Walker’s attorney, said in an interview.

More than age limits and “red flag” laws need to happen, Washington said. He is calling for the complete shutdown of sales of AR-15s. Authorities have said the shooter used an AR-15-style weapon and wore tactical gear.

“When you see the shots to the windshield and to his body, you have to wonder, how is he [Walker] even sitting here today? These guns are for one reason — to kill,” he said.

Rather than responding to recent shootings with restrictions, Texas has continued to ease gun laws. Over the last two years, the state has passed a law allowing people to carry handguns without a license and has not pursued raising the age for such purchases from 18 to 21. That’s in contrast to other states, such as Minnesota, which just signed a gun-control law that requires expanded background checks and a red-flag law that allows authorities to take guns away from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

“People are placing their agenda in front of lives. Especially in Texas, they want to somehow connect it to mental health. No, it’s evil people having access to these guns because they make it absolutely too easy,” Washington said.

This year’s spate of mass killings has shown that the attacks can be in places where people shop, worship, learn, go for entertainment.

“It’s happening everywhere. We have to be ready for battle,” Washington said. “Unfortunately, the common denominator is the AR-15. We need to take it out of people’s hands. So much can happen in a very short period of time when it involves that gun.”

Walker was the first victim of the shooting in Allen to arrive at Medical City McKinney hospital. Two of the eight killed had died at hospitals, authorities said. The Medical City Healthcare system took in six of the injured at three of its hospitals. As of Tuesday, four remain in good condition at its facilities.

Increased training and preparation for tragic events are becoming increasingly common in cities and hospitals as the number of calls to shootings have grown beyond urban areas into the suburbs and rural areas, at schools, churches and now a shopping mall.

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Hospitals are needing more resources than ever to stay prepared at all times, said Brian H. Williams, a surgeon who led the trauma team that treated police officers ambushed in 2016 by a sniper in Dallas and is now running for U.S. Congress.

Gun control and making sure hospitals and emergency response teams have what they need to treat victims in major catastrophes such as mass shootings are at the forefront of his campaign.

“I have seen way too many mass shootings, and I’ve had to meet with way too many distraught mothers and fathers,” he said.

He said he wants to do something about laws to promote gun control.

More than 100 nurses, surgeons, physicians, leaders and support staff from Medical City McKinney and across Medical City Healthcare stopped what they were doing on a Saturday afternoon and responded to the shooting.

“Every person responded with skill and a tremendous amount of compassion for the patients, their families and for one another,” said Cassidi Summers, chief nursing officer.

This is how bullets from an AR-15 blow the body apart

About 14 minutes after initial reports of the shooting, Walker arrived at Medical City McKinney, less than three miles from the outlet mall in Allen, officials said.

On the battlefield, they refer to quick team response time as the “golden hour.” A soldier’s survival from a traumatic injury depends on getting fast medical treatment within the first precious minutes after being wounded.

Timing and safety were of utmost importance in the shooting in Allen to find victims and render aid at an active scene where officers were still checking reports of a possible second shooter, officials said.

As ambulances lined up outside a restricted area, many of them unable to get closer to the injured due to safety precautions, medics in protective gear were escorted by police to tend to the victims. The practice of equipping emergency mobile units with ballistic vests and helmets started just five years ago in Allen.

Medical City McKinney had just received its Level 2 trauma center designation this past year, preparing it to receive and treat multiple critically injured trauma patients within a matter of minutes. The designation means it has on hand, 24 hours a day, surgeons, dedicated rooms to deal with multiple trauma patients and other necessary resources like a blood bank.

When news broke about the shooting, Kim, the trauma director, was at a wedding reception for one of her co-workers.

She immediately left the event and during her 20-minute drive to the hospital began assembling the medical team, including anesthesiologists and five trauma surgeons. She said the hospital had just recently completed a mock emergency drill, which helped with preparations.

“Once I arrived, you know, I could really see that the training and the drills that we had done in our trauma center to provide good care for our patients was very apparent,” Kim said.

The program proved to be strong when it was needed the most, said Kevin Martens, emergency director at Medical City McKinney.

“It did exactly what it needed to do,” he said. “It brought the right resources so we could care for multiple people unexpectedly in an urgent matter.”

As of this week, a GoFundMe page has surpassed its $100,000 goal to help with Walker’s medical bills. Walker, who works in the insurance field, will need a new car, which was destroyed in the shooting, a family representative said.

In the meantime, his medical team is pleased with his progress.

“It’s in moments like these when we’re able to see our patients recover and heal that give us a sense of unity, hope and strength to show up and provide care for our community,” said Summers, the chief nursing officer.

Asking for continued support for the community of Allen, Walker still keeps a positive outlook as he the others wounded in the shooting continue on the long healing journey ahead.

“We just need to keep them lifted,” he said.

The Allen, Tex. mall shooting

A gunman opened fire at Allen Premium Outlets, a shopping mall in a Dallas suburb, on Saturday. At least eight people were killed and seven injured. The gunman was fatally shot by a police officer.

The victims: Six of the eight victims were found dead at the scene; two others died at hospitals. Some of the victims were children. The people being treated at trauma facilities range in age from 5 to 61 years old.

The shooter: Mauricio Garcia was shot and killed by authorities at the mall. He was in his early 30s and may have had neo-Nazi beliefs, although a motive has not been released.

Response: Rep. Keith Self (R), the congressman who represents the area, rebuked criticism of officials offering “thoughts and prayers,” for which he’s received criticism. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting an “unspeakable tragedy.” The shooting is the second-deadliest in the U.S. so far this year.