El Paso shooter expected to face federal hate crime charges

EL PASO — The confessed shooter who in August targeted Mexicans at a Walmart, killing 22 and injuring dozens more, will face federal hate crime charges that carry a potential penalty of death.

A federal grand jury indictment is expected to be unsealed Thursday afternoon against Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen. The indictment comes six months after the August 3 mass killing stunned the U.S., Mexico and this borderland region.

U.S. Attorney John F. Bash, is expected to make the announcement, along with other top officials, including members of the FBI El Paso Division.

Federal and state authorities say Crusius drove some 800 miles from North Texas to hunt down Mexicans. He turned himself in shortly after opening fire on shoppers at the Walmart here.

Crusius already faces state charges on one count of capital murder of multiple persons that claimed victims from both sides of the border.

Last October, Crusius entered a not guilty plea on state charges, although he had earlier confessed to police. El Paso prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Crusius remains jailed without bond. A special hearing in the state case on the state case is scheduled for Feb. 13.

“We support the indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office as one more way of holding the shooter accountable,” District Attorney Jaime Estrada said in a statement. “The District Attorney’s Office will continue to work hard to ensure that justice is done and that the shooter is held accountable by our community. The office will fully cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of the federal charges to be announced today.”

The shooting was the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern U.S. history. After the shooting, investigators found a racist manifesto posted online that they say was written and submitted by Crusius as he sat inside his car in the parking lot of the Walmart minutes before the shootings. The Walmart has long been a magnet for shoppers from both sides of the border.

In the manifesto, the writer railed against the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Many community leaders, among them U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, have blamed political leaders, particularly President Donald J. Trump, for using inflammatory language against immigrants that allegedly helped inspired Crusius’ fears of ethnic replacement. In the manifesto, the author specifically says he developed his beliefs before Trump became president.

In her rebuttal speech following Tuesday’s State of the Union, Escobar tied the murders directly to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, framing gun violence as a public health epidemic. During his address to the nation, Trump used the same kind of rhetoric, citing examples of undocumented migrants who had committed violent crimes in sanctuary cities, even though studies indicate that illegal immigration does not increase violent crime.

“Just before [the shooter] began his killing spree, he published his opinions on the Internet, and he used the same hateful words used by President Trump to describe immigrants and Latinos,” Escobar said. “Incidents of gun violence take place in our schools, places of worship and neighborhoods every single day.”

A Dallas Morning News poll this week found that Texans overwhelmingly support background checks before gun purchases and say state leaders are not doing enough to stop mass shootings.

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