El Paso Gunman Receives 90 Life Sentences

Patrick Crusius killed 23 people at a Walmart
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 7, 2023 12:09 PM CDT
El Paso Gunman Receives 90 Life Sentences
El Paso Walmart shooting suspect Patrick Crusius pleads not guilty during his arraignment in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 10, 2019.   (Briana Sanchez/The El Paso Times via AP, Pool, File)

A white gunman who killed 23 people in a racist attack on Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart in a Texas border city was sentenced Friday to 90 consecutive life sentences but could still face more punishment, including the death penalty. Patrick Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty earlier this year to nearly 50 federal hate crime charges in the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, making it one of the US government's largest hate crime cases. Crusius, wearing a jumpsuit and shackles, showed no visible reaction as the verdict was read, per the AP. Police say Crusius drove more than 700 miles from his home near Dallas to target Hispanics with an AK-style rifle inside and outside the store. Moments before the attack began, Crusius posted a racist screed online that warned of a Hispanic "invasion" of Texas.

Crusius pleaded guilty in February after federal prosecutors took the death penalty off the table. But Texas prosecutors have said they will try to put Crusius on death row when he stands trial in state court. That trial date has not yet been set. Joe Spencer, Crusius' attorney, told the judge before the sentencing that his client had a "broken brain" and that he had lost touch with reality. "Patrick's thinking is at odds with reality … resulting in delusional thinking," Spencer told the court. The sentencing by US District Judge David Guaderrama in El Paso followed two days of impact statements from relatives of the victims, including citizens of Mexico.

One by one, family members used their first opportunity since the shooting to directly address Crusius, describing how their lives have been upended by grief and pain. Some forgave Crusius. One man displayed photographs of his slain father, insisting that the gunman look at them. Bertha Benavides' husband of 34 years, Arturo, was among those killed. "You left children without their parents, you left spouses without their spouses, and we still need them," she told Crusius. In addition to the dead, more than two dozen people were injured and numerous others were severely traumatized as they hid or fled.

(More El Paso shooting stories.)

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