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El Paso mayor says Trump used derisive term in meeting

People bow their heads in prayer while attending a community memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, at Southwest University Park, in El Paso, Texas, for those killed in a mass shooting on Aug. 3.
People bow their heads in prayer while attending a community memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, at Southwest University Park, in El Paso, Texas, for those killed in a mass shooting on Aug. 3. AP Photo

The mayor of El Paso said President Trump called him a derisive term for Republicans deemed insufficiently conservative during a visit to the grieving city last week.

Mayor Dee Margo told PBS's "Frontline" in an interview published Wednesday that Trump called him a "RINO" in a private conversation after the president paid his respects to the victims of the shooting that killed 22 people and wounded dozens more earlier this month. The term stands for "Republican in Name Only."

Margo said Trump made the comment after he corrected the president's "misinformation" about the border city's violent crime rate -- an issue the pair has sparred over before.

In February, Trump falsely suggested a border barrier caused a sharp drop in El Paso's crime. But there's no proof that the city's decline in violent crime was due to the wall as it was in line with a similar trend nationwide.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The conversation became public as police in El Paso are trying to identify a man who they say saved several lives during the mass shooting at a Walmart.

City police on Thursday shared a surveillance camera photo of the man, saying that he's considered a "hero" and that authorities need to interview him. Police said on Twitter that the man's actions were "critical and lifesaving" and that he's believed to have saved many lives during the mass shooting, including an infant's.

Sgt. Enrique Carrillo said police are not releasing details of what the man did because that information is needed to verify his identity.

Police have said Patrick Crusius, 21, confessed to driving to El Paso from a Dallas suburb to target Mexicans in the Aug. 3 attack .

On Thursday, a scheduled football game between an El Paso high school and the school Crusius attended was cancelled for fear of disruption by extremists.

The game between Plano Senior High School and El Paso's Eastwood High School had been set for Sept. 6 in Plano. But officials in the North Texas school district said in a statement that they were canceling it because of safety concerns.

"What should be a celebratory event would be encumbered by safety concerns for the participants and fans of both teams," said Superintendent Sara Bonser.

Plano police spokesman David Tilley said no credible threat had been made against the event.

Tilley said that Bonser, the Plano ISD superintendent, voiced concern to Plano Police Chief Greg Rushin that the game could potentially provide a platform for those with an extremist political agenda to amplify their message. Tilley said Rushin agreed with Bonser's assessment.

"They decided to err on the side of caution. The reward of playing this non-district game was not worth the risk of what could potentially take place," Tilley told The Dallas Morning News .

Authorities believe that Crusius posted an anti-immigrant rant before the attack to an online site sometimes used by white nationalists.

The Plano ISD stadium is situated in the adjoining town of Murphy, where Police Chief Arthur Cotton told The Associated Press that no threats had been reported.

Eastwood is part of the Ysleta Independent School District, where school board member Kathryn Lucero told the El Paso Times that she and fellow trustees learned only Wednesday that Plano officials had concerns about their ability to provide security at the football game.

The Ysleta district offered to host the game in El Paso or to play Plano Senior at a neutral site, but the Plano district rejected both proposals.

"We don't agree with the way this is being handled in Plano," Lucero told the newspaper. "This is an opportunity for our districts to heal and be who we really are."

"It's really unfortunate that the Plano district is unable to stand up to the fear," she said.

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