A visibly shaken Beto O'Rourke announced Saturday he was cutting a campaign stop in Las Vegas short to return to his hometown of El Paso, Texas, following early reports of a fatal shooting there.
Multiple people were killed Saturday in a shooting in the area of the Cielo Vista Mall, according to local police.
"I'm thinking about El Paso, I want you to be thinking about El Paso as well," O'Rourke told the audience, taking the stage Saturday at a labor union forum in Las Vegas.
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman also shared that he called his wife, Amy, immediately after he received the news.
"She's driving with my daughter Molly and to talk to her," O'Rourke said, his voice wavering. "Just a real reminder of what's most important at the end of the day for all of us."
O'Rourke said that the shooting shatters "any illusion that we had that progress is inevitable or that the change that we need is going to come of its own accord."
"There is no luxury in this democracy of sitting this one out, whether it is gun violence, whether it is many of the issues we discuss today," O'Rourke said, adding, "It is on every single one of us to make this right."
In a media gaggle soon after his appearance, he told reporters he was incredibly saddened.
"It is very hard to think about this," he said. "But I tell you, El Paso is the strongest place in the world. This community's going to come together. I'm going back there right now to be with my family and to be with my hometown."
When initial reports of a shooting surfaced, O'Rourke tweeted, "Truly heartbreaking. Stay safe, El Paso. Please follow all directions of emergency personnel as we continue to get more updates."
O'Rourke was born in El Paso and in 2012 was elected to represent Texas' 16th Congressional District, which includes El Paso and the surrounding area.
Other 2020 Democratic candidates also responded to the shooting while attending the labor forum hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Marianne Williamson, a native of Houston, offered prayers for the people of El Paso and "prayers for all the rest of us as well, that we might summon up the courage to remove this scourge from out midst."
Julián Castro, formerly the mayor of San Antonio, called the shooting "truly devastating."
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker advocated for gun reform "before it happens to yet another community, before another person dies," and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock told reporters, "My (heart goes) out to the folks in Texas."