(MAINNEWS) – Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for the man accused of killing 23 people and injuring dozens more in a hate crime targeting people of Mexican descent at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, a court document filed on Tuesday showed.
Prosecutors say Patrick Wood Crusius drove 11 hours to El Paso, which sits on the U.S. border with Mexico, from his hometown of Allen, near Dallas, on Aug. 3, 2019, and then fired at shoppers with an AK-47 rifle inside the Walmart store. He surrendered to officers who confronted him outside.
Crusius, who also faces state charges in Texas, is set to stand trial in 2024 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, facing 23 counts of committing a hate crime resulting in death, and 23 counts of using a firearm to commit murder, among other charges.
Crusius pleaded not guilty in 2020 to 90 federal hate crime charges in the case. Proceedings were delayed while prosecutors decided whether to pursue the death penalty against him. In 2020, his lawyers argued that Crusius, then 21, had been diagnosed with severe, lifelong neurological and mental disabilities and should not face execution if convicted.
Last year, a Texas judge put off a state trial in the case as federal prosecutors determined whether they would seek capital punishment.
In a notification to the court and to the defendant filed Tuesday, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Leachman said the government would not seek death in the case.
When he was taken into police custody minutes after the shooting, Crusius was in a psychotic state and treated with anti-psychotic medication, according to mental health professionals employed by the jail, a court filing said.
A manifesto that prosecutors say was posted online by Crusius on 8chan, a now-defunct message board often used by extremists, said the Walmart attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
By Sharon Bernstein