El Paso shooting: CBP port director 'showed remarkable courage' in saving victims

CBP Tornillo Port Director Donna Sifford was shopping on her day off when a gunman entered the store and began shooting


By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times, Texas

EL PASO, Texas — An off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Protection director is among those who helped save lives during a domestic terrorist attack at an El Paso Walmart.

CBP Tornillo Port Director Donna Sifford was shopping on her day off when a gunman entered the store and began shooting Saturday morning at the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall, CBP officials said.

Sifford, through a CBP spokesman on Tuesday, said that she did not act alone and that Walmart employees and others all tried to help save lives.

Sifford "showed remarkable courage" during the shooting, taking people to safety and aiding the wounded, acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan tweeted.

"She provided first aid to a man who credits her with saving his life and she continued to run back inside to bring others out to safety," Morgan tweeted. "She is the embodiment of CBP’s core values and I am so proud of her."

El Pasoan Chris Grant, 50, credited Sifford for saving his life after he was shot while shopping for groceries.

"This is my guardian angel," Grant told CNN in a hospital room reunion with Sifford at University Medical Center of El Paso.

Sifford, through a CBP spokesman, emphasized that at least two unknown Walmart employees were instrumental in helping saving Grant.

Sifford is the CBP port director at the Marcelino Serna port of entry in Tornillo, east of El Paso. The border port of entry is named after a World War I hero who was a Mexican immigrant.

Grant told family members that "the shooter was targeting Mexicans and was passing whites, African Americans," said Laura Hromatka, Grant's former wife.

Grant tried to distract the shooter by throwing soda bottles at him before the shooter turned his rifle toward him and shot him twice, his family said.

'We went back inside'

"We heard the gunshots happening," Sifford told CNN. "We were trying to get as many people as we could out and then we were able to get an old lady out; she didn't know what was going on. We put her behind a tree. We went back inside."

Sifford said that she never saw the shooter. Grant was taken outside and given first aid with the help of Walmart employees, Sifford said through a CBP spokesman. She declined an interview request.

Sifford told CNN that the Walmart workers grabbed as many first aid kits and paper towels as they could, using the towels to help stop the bleeding.

An off-duty police officer in shorts and a bulletproof vest showed up and Grant was loaded into the bed of a pickup and rushed to the hospital, Sifford said.

El Paso police and city officials said that 22 people were killed and 25 others were injured in the shooting that law enforcement is describing as a domestic terrorism hate crime.

Sifford joined what was then named the U.S. Customs Service in 1992 following a four-year enlistment in the U.S. Air Force, according to CBP information. She began her CBP career as a canine enforcement officer. She was named port director of the Marcelino Serna port of entry in 2010.

The massive law enforcement response to the Walmart shooting included several CBP officers and Border Patrol agents who assisted with securing the scene, providing first aid and helping El Paso police, CBP officials said.

©2019 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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