A white nationalist who shot and killed 23 people at a Texas supermarket in the majority-Hispanic city of El Paso in 2019 pleaded guilty on 8 February in federal court, news reports said. During a hearing in the same city on the US-Mexico border, Patrick Crusius pleaded guilty to 90 counts against him, including committing a hate crime resulting in death.
His lawyers reversed course in January and decided to have him plead guilty to the shooting at a Walmart store after federal prosecutors dropped the death penalty as a possible sentence. However, he still faces trial at the state level in Texas, which has not ruled out requesting capital punishment.
Sentencing is not scheduled until later this year, but the U.S. government had previously announced it wouldn’t seek the death penalty. Crusius waived most of his rights to appeal on a total of 90 federal charges, which U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama said would each carry a life sentence.
In August 2019, Crusius drove some 660 miles from Allen, Texas near Dallas to the Walmart Supercenter in El Paso with an assault rifle and more than 1000 rounds of ammunition. He opened fire on people in the supermarket parking lot, killing 23 and wounding 22. According to the federal indictment, before Crusius launched his attack he uploaded a document to the internet titled ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ in which he said his attack “is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”. Texas governor Greg Abbott has been criticised for using the word “invasion” to describe immigration, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper:
If this is not an invasion, what is it?
Crusius, meanwhile, said he was “defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement”, referring to a concept created by white supremacists claiming other ethnic groups are “replacing” them in the population. When police showed up he got out of his car and identified himself as the shooter. While in custody, Crusius told police he had wanted to kill Mexicans. Crusius’s attack was the fifth deadliest mass shooting in US history. The New York Times reported that the El Paso shooter:
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drew direct inspiration from the mass murder of Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand in March 2019 that left 51 people dead.
The massacre ignited a debate on how then-president Donald Trump’s repeated criticism of immigrants guided the behaviour of people who supported him. Trump’s hatred of Mexican people has been well-documented. At the time of the shooting in 2019, The New York Times recalled an exchange from one of Trump’s many rallies:
At a Florida rally in May, the president asked the crowd for ideas to block migrants from crossing the border.
“How do you stop these people?” he asked.
“Shoot them!” one man shouted.
The crowd laughed and Mr. Trump smiled.
Featured image via YouTube screenshot/KTSM 9 News
Additional reporting by Agence France-PresseSupport us and go ad-free
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