HOUSTON — On Wednesday the sentencing phase began for the man who killed 23 people and injured 26 in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas in 2019.
Patrick Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty in February to 45 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and 45 counts for using a firearm “during and in relation to crimes of violence.”
He agreed to 90 life sentences after the federal government took the death penalty off the table to secure a plea deal.
Crusius still faces state charges as prosecutors in Texas consider death by lethal injection an option.
In a statement of facts agreed to and signed by Crusius, he admitted to killing and wounding people at the Walmart because of the “actual and perceived Hispanic national origin” of the people he expected to find at the Walmart. In addition to admitting that he intended to kill everyone he shot, he also confirmed he wrote the manifesto titled “An Inconvenient Truth,” which he published online just before the attack.
In the manifesto, he described himself as a white nationalist who was motivated to kill Latinos because they were moving to the United States. Crusius also admitted that he targeted the border city to dissuade Mexicans and other Latino immigrants from coming to the U.S.
“In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto,” he wrote, referring to the attack on two mosques in New Zealand on March 15, 2019, that left 49 people dead and 48 others injured.
“This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” Crusius said in his manifesto. “They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
The language used by Crusius, such as referring to Latino immigrants as “invaders,” has been embraced by conservative politicians to demonize asylum-seekers. The dehumanization of immigrants from the Global South became more prevalent after former President Donald Trump denigrated Mexican immigrants during his 2016 presidential campaign, promising to build a “big, beautiful” wall to separate the United States from its southern neighbor.
The disdain for Latin Americans has also become more common online via far-right extremist websites. While we see comments on social media echoing the words of the former president, more mainstream outlets in legacy media have since adopted much of the rhetoric as well. Describing the U.S.-Mexico border as in “crisis” and the use of militaristic language in the lead-up to the end of Title 42 only served to exacerbate the Latinophobia still growing in the U.S.
As Crusius faces judgment for his act for terrorism, the sentencing phase in the trial of Robert Bowers is also underway. In that case, jurors are deliberating over whether Bowers —who killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg on October 27, 2018— will face the death penalty after being convicted on 63 federal charges, including 11 counts for “obstruction of the free exercise of religious beliefs” and 11 more for “willfully causing bodily injury because of actual or perceived religion.”
Bowers was found guilty on all 63 counts on June 16.