Man called hero in El Paso mass shooting living on Memphis streets

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Lazaro Ponce

Data pix.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A man living on the streets of Memphis is being hailed as a hero after police say he saved a baby and helped others in the midst of the horrific El Paso Walmart shooting last August.

Lazaro Ponce is just now gaining recognition for his incredible story because police finally were able to locate him, more than 1,000 miles away from the massacre.

"It was the right thing to do, you know," Ponce said, recalling the day when he says he rescued a baby from inside the El Paso Walmart while a gunman wreaked havoc.

An alleged white supremacist targeting Mexicans is accused of killing 22 people and injuring more than two dozen others in the shooting.

Shortly after the shooting, police posted a picture to their social media, asking the public to help them find the man they called a hero.

Police said not only did he rescue the baby, but he went back inside the store, grabbing towels, packing wounds and helping others who were injured.

Then, nearly six months went by.

"We pretty much just went about our daily lives and had no idea" people were looking for him, he said.

You see, Ponce and his wife, Crystal Roberts, are homeless and now living in Memphis.

WREG drove around the city, asking people if they recognized the couple, and finally tracked them down.

"We're just trying to cope with what happened and trying to live one day at a time," Ponce said.

The El Paso Police Department told WREG they cannot discuss witnesses in a case, but they confirmed Ponce's identity to a reporter at the El Paso Times.

The couple walked us through what they say happened.

They said they were living at a homeless camp near the Walmart, and went in for coffee. Ponce was inside, Roberts was outside.

"All of a sudden I just look up and this guy is shooting," Roberts said. "Shot this woman in the head and started opening fire on people outside."

She hid behind a cart. Inside, Ponce heard banging. Realizing it was gunfire, his instincts and adrenaline kicked in.

"I said, to hell with this, I got to come back and get my wife."

On his way, he noticed a woman with a baby. She had been shot.

"I see the baby and I told her, 'Hey look, give me the baby please before this guy comes back and finishes me, you off, and the baby,'" he said.

He ran out and gave the child to paramedics — but he wasn't done.

"I go back in and tried to help more people in there," Ponce said. "I helped a guy in a wheelchair."

Shortly after the shooting, they left, traveling to Albuquerque, Denver, then to Memphis for a warmer climate. They didn't realize the police were looking for them until Roberts saw an article with her husband's picture.

He said he has been questioned by the FBI about the incident.

Ponce is now working in Memphis, taking care of yards, but he said he can only work a few days a week due to health conditions. He and his wife have a Gofundme account set up.

He said his story shows that no matter who you are, just a moment to help can make a difference. He's thankful at least one child now has a shot at life.

"I'm happy, I'm glad he's going to have a future. He's going to have a life, grow up and have a family," Ponce said.

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