Police say Crusius drove more than 700 miles from his home near Dallas to target Hispanics with an AK-style rifle in and around the store. Moments before the attack began, Crusius posted a racist message online warning of a Hispanic « invasion » of Texas.
In the years since the shooting, Republicans have described migrants crossing the southern U.S. border as an « invasion, » dismissing critics who say the rhetoric fuels anti-immigrant opinion and violence.
Crusio he pleaded guilty in February after federal prosecutors took the death penalty off the table. But Texas prosecutors have said they will seek to place Crusius on death row when he is tried in state court. The trial date has not yet been set.
As he was being led out of the courtroom, a family member of one of the victims shouted at Crusius from the gallery.
“See you again, coward. No apologies, no nothing.
Joe Spencer, Crusius’ attorney, told the judge ahead of sentencing that his client had a « broken brain. »
“Patrick’s thinking is at odds with reality…resulting in delusional thinking,” Spencer told the court.
Crusius has become alarmed by his own violent thoughts, including once quitting a job at a movie theater because of those thoughts, Spencer said. He said Crusius once searched online for ways to address his mental health and dropped out of a community college near Dallas because of his struggles.
Spencer said Crusius had arrived in El Paso with no specific goal in mind before ending up at Walmart.
“Patrick acted with his broken brain cemented in delusions,” Spencer said.
The ruling by US District Judge David Guaderrama in El Paso followed two days of impactful statements from relatives of the victims, including Mexican nationals. In addition to the dead, more than two dozen people were injured and numerous others were severely traumatized while hiding or fleeing.
One by one, family members used their first opportunity after the shooting to address Crusius directly, describing how their lives were turned upside down by grief and grief. Some have forgiven Crusius. A man held up photographs of his slain father, insisting the gunman look at them.
Bertha Benavides’ husband of 34 years, Arturo, was among those killed.
« You left the kids without their parents, you left the spouses without their spouses, and we still need them, » she told Crusius.
During the victims’ initial statements, Crusius occasionally spun in his chair or bobbed his head with little sign of emotion. On Thursday, his eyes seemed to light up as victims condemned the brutality of the shootings and demanded that Crusius respond and account for his actions. At one point, Crusius consulted with a defense attorney alongside him and motioned not to answer.
Crusius’ family did not appear in court during the sentencing phase.
The attack was the deadliest of a dozen mass shootings in the United States linked to hate crimes since 2006, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University.
Prior to the shooting, Crusius had appeared consumed with the nation’s immigration debate, tweeting #BuildtheWall and posts praising then-President Donald Trump’s hardline border policies. He went further in his rant he published before the attack, issuing warnings that Hispanics would take over the government and the economy.
As the condemnation phase began, some immigrant rights advocates made fresh calls for politicians to soften their rhetoric on immigration. Republicans, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have pushed for more aggressive action to strengthen the southern border of the United States.
Amaris Vega’s aunt was killed in the attack, and her mother narrowly survived a softball-sized chest wound. In court, Vega railed against Crusius’ « pathetic, sorry manifesto » that promised to rid Texas of Hispanics.
“But guess what? You didn’t. You failed,” she told him. “We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere. you lunge.
Margaret Juarez, whose 90-year-old father was killed in the attack and whose mother was injured but survived, said she found it ironic that Crusius was destined to spend his life in prison among racial and minority inmates. ethnic. Other relatives and survivors in the courtroom applauded as he celebrated their freedom.
“Swim in prison waters,” he told Crusius. “Now we will enjoy the sun. … We still have our freedom, in our country.”
The people who were killed ranged in age from a 15-year-old high school athlete to several elderly grandparents. They included immigrants, a retired city bus driver, teachers, traders including a former steel worker, and several Mexican nationals who had crossed the border into the United States on routine shopping trips.
Two teenage girls recounted their narrow escape from Crusius’ rampage as they attended a fundraiser for their youth soccer team outside the store. The parents were injured and the soccer coach, Guillermo Garcia, died months later of injuries sustained in the attack.
Both young men said they are still haunted by fear of another shooting when in public places.
« He was shot at point blank range by a coward and there was his innocent blood, everywhere, » said Kathleen Johnson, whose husband David was among the victims. “I don’t know when I will be the same. … The pain you have caused is indescribable.