‘Criminals before victims’: Outrage as El Paso Walmart shooter Patrick Crusius won’t face death penalty

‘Criminals before victims’: Outrage as El Paso Walmart shooter Patrick Crusius won’t face death penalty
Patrick Crusius turned himself in after the shooting, claiming to be the gunman, saying, 'I’m the shooter,' and that he had targeted Mexicans (Texas Police Department)

EL PASO, TEXAS: Federal prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing 23 people in a racial attack at West Texas Walmart in 2019. In a one-sentence notice filed Tuesday, January 17, with the federal court in El Paso, the United States Department of Justice announced its decision not to seek the death penalty against Patrick Crusius.

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The rationale for the decision was not explained by federal prosecutors in their court filing, although Crusius could still face the death penalty if convicted in state court. The ruling comes just weeks after Jaime Esparza, the former El Paso district attorney, was appointed US Attorney for the Western District of Texas.

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What was Patrick Crusius' crime?

Crusius, 24, is suspected of specifically targeting Mexicans during the August 3, 2019, massacre, which killed 23 people and injured 23 others. In state court, the Dallas native is charged with federal hate crimes and gun violations, as well as capital murder. Crusius entered a not-guilty plea.

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In this handout photo provided by the El Paso Police Department, Patrick Crusius, 21, poses for a booking photo August 4, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.  Crusius is charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of 22 people at an El Paso Walmart August 4.
Patrick Crusius, 24, is suspected of specifically targeting Mexicans during the August 3, 2019, massacre, which killed 23 people and injured 23 others (El Paso Police Department)

According to an arrest warrant, Crusius turned himself in after the shooting, claiming to be the gunman, saying, “I’m the shooter,” and that he had targeted Mexicans. He allegedly posted a screed online shortly before the shooting that claimed it was "in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," according to the prosecution. 

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The Walmart where the attack occurred is popular with Mexican visitors who shop there after coming across from the border city of Juarez. The vast majority of the victims were Mexican or of Mexican heritage, reported The Independent.

The words 'El Paso Strong' are written on a memento at a temporary memorial in Ponder Park honoring victims of the Walmart shooting which left 23 people dead in a racist attack targeting Latinos on August 2, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. August 3rd marks the one-year anniversary of the deadliest attack against Hispanics in modern U.S. history. A number of memorial events are planned amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the Texas city which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The words 'El Paso Strong' are written on a memento at a temporary memorial in Ponder Park honoring victims of the Walmart shooting which left 23 people dead in El Paso, Texas (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Death Penalty or No Death Penalty?

In a necessary filing in federal court in El Paso on Tuesday, January 17, the US Department of Justice revealed its decision not to seek the death penalty against Crusius. “The United States of America hereby notifies the Court and Defendant PATRICK WOOD CRUSIUS that the Government will not seek the death penalty in the instant case,” the filing stated. However, when serving as district attorney, Esparza, declared that he would seek Crusius' execution. A representative for Esparza's office directed queries to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Twenty three doves await release outside Walmart as mourners hold crosses honoring those killed in the Walmart shooting which left 23 people dead in a racist attack targeting Latinos on August 3, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. Today marks the first anniversary of the deadliest attack against Hispanics in modern U.S. history. A number of memorial events are planned amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the Texas city which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Victims of the mass shooting were honored as twenty-three doves were released outside Walmart (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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The decision by the prosecutors could be a watershed moment for the Justice Department, which has provided inconsistent signals on policy regarding the federal death sentence, which President Biden committed to abolishing during his presidential campaign. Biden is the first president to explicitly reject the death penalty, and his election heightened the hopes of abolitionists, who have subsequently been disappointed by a lack of clarity on how the administration plans to cease federal executions if that is even the goal. There will be no federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of capital sentence reviews and procedures, as directed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2021.

Crusius may face trial on state charges at some point in the future, despite the fact that the federal and state cases have developed concurrently. Crusius' lawyers did not immediately reply to demands for comment. His case is due for trial in federal court in January 2024, as per MNS.

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In November, Yvonne Rosales, the district attorney in charge of the state's case against Crusius, resigned after being accused of being incompetent in handling hundreds of cases in El Paso. In an effort to "restore confidence" in the community's criminal justice system, Texas Governor Greg Abbott appointed a new district attorney in December 2022. 

People, as usual, were quick to take to social media, with one saying, "I'm a firm believer there are punishments worse than death. just put him in the general population and let nature take its course." A user said, "Biden is the worst. Criminals before victims." "He murdered 23 people in cold blood, planned and executed as a cold bloodied murderer racially motivated. If anyone deserves the maximum punishment, it is he. Who in the federal government decides this, they should be fired," said a user. Another added, "Good. President Biden campaigned on a federal death penalty moratorium and a promise made should always be a promise kept."

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