Patrick Crusius plead guilty to all federal charges on Wednesday, nearly three and a half years after the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas – one of the deadliest attacks on Latinos in modern US history.
Crusius, 24, had pleaded not guilty in 2020 to the 90 federal charges he faces, including hate crimes resulting in death, use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence, hate crimes involving attempt to kill, and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
He was accused of killing 23 people in 2019 at a Walmart in El Paso.
Wearing a navy jail jumpsuit and glasses while handcuffed, Crusius verbally pleaded “guilty” to each charge as the judge read the 90 counts aloud, a list that included the names of the deceased victims and wounded survivors.
The guilty plea is part of a plea agreement in which the prosecution recommends 90 consecutive life sentences.
“Nothing can undo the immeasurable loss suffered by the loved ones of the victims of that attack or the terror inflicted on the El Paso community in its wake,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “Today’s action makes clear that the Justice Department will not tolerate hate-fueled violence that endangers the safety of our communities.”
Crusius sat next to his attorneys as he repeatedly confirmed he understood the rights he was waiving with his guilty pleas. During the initial reading of the charges and explanation of his rights, Crusius largely kept his head down during the hearing, looking at the table in front of him.
He was asked to stand while giving his pleas and, as he admitted his guilt, multiple people in the audience could be seen wiping their eyes, but the crowd was silent. Dozens of family members of victims were in the audience.
“We’re glad that it was finally done,” defense attorney Joe Spencer told reporters after court. “And he’s glad that it was finally done. There are no winners in this case. He’s going to be serving 90 consecutive life sentences.”
The federal trial was set to start in January 2024, but now that Crusius has pleaded guilty, the case is expected to move straight to a sentencing hearing in June, the judge said Wednesday.
As the epidemic of mass shootings in America continues unabated, Crusius also faces state charges for the August 3, 2019, massacre that left almost two dozen people wounded. The slain included a 15-year-old soccer player and a 60-year-old Army veteran who would give “a meal and a home to anyone.”
In that case, Texas prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty. Crusius has pleaded not guilty to a state capital murder charge, and a trial has not been scheduled yet.
At a January status hearing in the state case, El Paso’s District Attorney Bill Hicks said a trial date won’t be set until after sentencing in the federal case, according to CNN affiliate KFOX. Hicks added the state trial could start in 2024 or 2025, but the schedule will be up to the district court judge.
Authorities describe a White supremacist manifesto
Authorities say the suspect drove 11 hours from his hometown of Allen, Texas – a Dallas suburb – to El Paso with the sole intent of killing immigrants and Mexicans in the West Texas border city.
About 20 minutes before the massacre, the suspect is believed to have posted a 2,300-word manifesto he wrote titled, “The Inconvenient Truth.” It included White supremacist language, opposed “race mixing” and encouraged immigrants to return to their home countries.
“This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” Crusius wrote, according to an indictment. “They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by the invasion.”
Weeks before the shooting, the suspect bought a GP WASR-10 semi-automatic rifle and 1,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition online, the indictment states.
CNN’s Ashley Killough reported from El Paso and Holly Yan reported and wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Brad Parks and Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.