Mass Shooting Defendant Enters Guilty Pleas to Federal Charges

Death sentence is still possible if state wins capitol murder conviction in El Paso slayings
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 8, 2023 6:50 PM CST
Mass Shooting Defendant Enters Guilty Pleas to Federal Charges
A decorated rock remembering the victims of the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso rests at a memorial site Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Andr?s Leighton)

A Texas man pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges accusing him of killing nearly two dozen people in a racist attack at an El Paso Walmart, changing his plea weeks after the federal government said it wouldn't seek the death penalty for the hate crimes and firearms violations. Patrick Crusius still faces a potential death sentence if he's convicted on a state capital murder charge in the 2019 shooting that killed 23 people, the AP reports. He pleaded not guilty in the state case, but his lawyers said last month that he would enter a guilty plea to the federal charges.

Handcuffed and wearing a dark blue jumpsuit, Crusius appeared in the El Paso federal courtroom facing 90 federal charges in total following one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history. "I plead guilty," he said. Crusius, 24, surrendered to police after the massacre, saying that "I'm the shooter" and that he was targeting Mexicans, according to court records. Prosecutors have said he drove more than 10 hours from his hometown near Dallas to the largely Latino border city and published a document online shortly before the shooting that said it was "in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." Many of the dead and wounded were citizens of Mexico.

His alleged statements echoed both the anti-immigration rhetoric of American politics and racist screeds put out by other mass shooters in the US and abroad. The Aug. 3, 2019, shooting happened on a busy weekend at a Walmart that is typically popular with shoppers from Mexico and the US. In addition to those killed, more than two dozen were injured and hundreds more were scarred by being present or having a loved one hurt. Although the federal and state cases have progressed along parallel tracks, it’s unclear when Crusius might face trial in a Texas court because the state case has been disrupted by allegations of mistakes and misconduct against the lead local prosecutor.

(More El Paso shooting stories.)

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