The 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting that left 23 dead was a tragic example of the xenophobia and racism that the Latinx community faces and it remains the deadliest attack against U.S. Latinxs in modern history. The 23 who died and 22 other people injured were mostly Mexican Americans or Mexicans from El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. Now, the shooter, Patrick Crusius, has been sentenced to 90 consecutive life terms for his crimes. Back in 2020, the Department of Justice charged the gunman with 90 federal charges, including 45 federal hate crimes after he admitted to police he was targeting Mexicans. Crusius drove nine hours overnight from Allen, TX, to El Paso with a semiautomatic WASR-10 rifle and 1,000 rounds of 7.62 mm hollow-point ammunition, according to the indictment. The 24-year-old terrorist has been in custody since Aug. 3, 2019.
Back in February, Crusius agreed to the back-to-back life sentences after federal prosecutors said in January that they wouldn’t be seeking the death penalty, pleading guilty to the 90 counts and 45 hate crime charges. He admitted that he killed and wounded people at the Walmart because of the Latin heritage (actual and perceive) of the people he assumed would be there. He also admitted that he intended to kill everyone he shot, according to the statement of facts agreed to and signed by Crusius and entered into the court record at his guilty plea hearing.
“White nationalist-fueled violence has no place in our society today,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said at the time in the DOJ statement. “This senseless massacre violates the law, runs contrary to our values as Americans and defies the principles of tolerance and inclusion that define us as a nation… The Justice Department will continue to use every tool at its disposal to combat hate crimes, hold perpetrators accountable, and seek justice for the victims and survivors. This guilty plea cannot bring back those whose lives were lost, or heal those still suffering, but it does put us firmly on the path to justice. Our hearts are with the victims of this horrendous crime, their families, and the entire community.”
Per the judge’s request, the shooter will be sent to ADX Florence, a maximum facility prison in Colorado, and receive mental health treatment. According to the Department of Justice, minutes before the hate-fueled rampage, Crusius uploaded a xenophobic and outright racist manifesto online titled “An Inconvenient Truth,” where he admitted to being a white nationalist, discussed his disdain for Latinxs and his motivation to kill immigrants, described an “invasion” of immigrants and referenced the white nationalist “great replacement” theory, and admitted to selecting El Paso to dissuade Mexican and other Latinx immigrants from coming to the U.S.
The hate crime claimed the lives of Andre Anchondo, Jordan Anchondo, Arturo Benavides, Jorge Calvillo Garcia, Guillermo Garcia, Leonardo Campos, Angelina Englisbee, Maria Flores, Raul Flores, Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, Alexander Hoffmann, David Johnson, Luis Alfonso Juarez, Maria Legarreta Rothe, Maribel Loya Hernandez, Ivan Filiberto Manzano, Gloria Irma Marquez, Elsa Mendoza Marquez, Margie Reckard, Sara Regalado Monreal, Javier Amir Rodriguez, Teresa Sanchez, & Juan Velasquez. After Crusius’ sentencing began Wednesday, relatives of the victims spoke to the gunman about the damage he did and the anger they felt for him.
Francisco Javier Rodriguez, whose 15-year-old son Javier Amir Rodriguez, was the youngest person killed during the mass shooting, shared his relief at the fact that the shooter was being held accountable.
“It is good that it is over,” Rodriguez said, according to the El Paso Times. “Nothing he can say will bring my son back.”
Among the 36 people who addressed Crusius on Wednesday and Thursday was a minor who survived the shooting and wore an “El Paso Strong” tee and spoke in between sobs, CNN reported.
“I used to be a happy, normal teenager, until a coward chose to use violence against the innocent,” she said. “I’m no longer as happy as I used to be.”
At the time of Crusius’ indictment on federal hate crime charges, former assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, Eric Dreiband, called the mass shooting an act intended “to frighten and intimidate the Hispanic community.”
“People in our nation have the right to go to a store on a Saturday morning without fear that they will be shot and killed because of who they are or where they are from,” Dreiband said in a statement about the case. “As the grand jury alleges, the Defendant tried to terrorize an entire community. This kind of terror will not stand.”
El Paso County District Attorney Bill Hicks previously stated that his office is seeking the death penalty for Crusius, beyond the federal sentencing. A trial date has not been set, but Hicks said it could be tried next year or in 2025, depending on when state Judge Sam Medrano calls the case to trial, EP Times reported.