Grieving Dayton community sings 'Amazing Grace' at vigil after second mass shooting over the weekend

Evidence markers rest on the ground after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, US August 4, 2019.(Photo: Reuters/Bryan Woolston)

The US has been left reeling by two mass shootings in one weekend after a gunman opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas on Saturday only to be followed less than 24 hours later by another deadly rampage in Dayton, Ohio.

Twenty people were killed in the El Paso shooting, which is believed to have been racially motivated and designed to target members of the Hispanic community. 

The shooter has been named as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius. The authorities are investigating whether he is behind a white supremacist 'manifesto' uploaded to the 8chan website shortly before the shooting at Walmart. 

In the early hours of Sunday, nine people were killed and over two dozen injured when a gunman opened fire outside a bar in Dayton's Oregon District. 

Police confirmed the gunman as 24-year-old Connor Betts from Bellbrook, Ohio.  He was killed by police at the scene.  His sister was among the victims. 

The motive of the attack has not yet been established. 

"We don't know the thoughts of the shooter," Mayor Nan Whaley said.

She expressed her sadness over the rate at which mass shootings were occurring across the US. 

"As a mayor, this is a day that we all dread happening," she said. "What's very sad is I've got messages from mayors across the country - it's sad that we've all gone through it."

At a vigil held in Dayton after the shooting, members of the grieving community released white doves and sang "Amazing Grace" in honour of the survivors.  

On Sunday, President Donald Trump, who has been strongly criticised after the shootings, tweeted: "God bless the people of El Paso, Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio." 

Church leaders have called for prayers but also for action in the wake of the attacks. 

Megachurch pastor Jentezen Franklin tweeted: "Praying for Dayton, Ohio today. We cannot let evil take over, stand for what is good and what is right. Join me in praying for the victims, families and communities affected." 

Jarrid Wilson, pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, suggested that the laws needed to be changed to stop more shootings.

"Regardless of how you spin it, America needs Jesus," he said.

"America needs our prayers. And yes, America needs practical laws/regulations to help ensure that mass shootings do not happen as often as they do." 

Christian author Lisa Bevere wrote on Twitter: "We woke to discover another layer of carnage was added to the terror our nation experienced yesterday. It's time to move beyond the blame & for ALL of us to unite to find solutions. Pray! Then let's attack the problem that's attacking our people!" 

After Saturday's shooting in El Paso, the Rev Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, made an urgent call to political leaders to "depoliticize" immigration. 

"The NHCLC's community of thousands upon thousands of churches is profoundly grieving at the terror unleashed in El Paso today, terror targeting our nation's beloved Hispanic community," he said.

"We urge our political leaders, Democrat and Republican, to once-and-for-all depoliticize immigration in this country and instead embrace a fact-based approach to this and to all political questions that divide us.

"Even more importantly, we call upon people of sincere faith in every corner of our country to recommit themselves to loving the 'other' and to begin to pray with all their might that God would heal our broken land."

Billy Graham has deployed teams of crisis chaplains to both cities to offer pastoral support to those affected. 

"This is such a difficult time for both of these cities," said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.

"In this time of shock, anger, brokenness and incredible loss, we can't imagine the pain and suffering people are feeling from these senseless acts of evil. Yet, we know God hasn't forgotten them, and seeks to heal the brokenhearted and bring comfort to those who grieve."