A man accused of gunning down people at a busy Walmart in El Paso last month was indicted Thursday for capital murder, prosecutors announced.
Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas, was indicted on one count in connection with the Aug. 3 mass shooting that left 22 dead in the border city, District Attorney Jaime Esparza said. El Paso prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Crusius, who remains jailed without bond.
Crusius’ defence lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. Attorney Mark Stevens previously said he will use “every legal tool available” to prevent his client from being executed.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reacted to the indictment by simply tweeting : “good.”
The El Paso County District Clerk’s office said Crusius’ indictment would not be publicly available until next week because it takes a few days to process and assign the case to a court.
The massacre was the first in a series of mass shootings last month that left dozens dead and, again, brought the debate over guns into the centre of American politics.
Prosecutors have said Crusius surrendered to police after the attack saying, “I’m the shooter,” and that he was targeting Mexicans. In court documents, prosecutors alleged that Crusius was the author of a screed published shortly before the shooting that said it was “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The document parroted some of President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric about immigration, leading El Paso residents, protesters and Democrats to blame Trump for inflaming political and racial tensions throughout the country. Trump has denied stoking division and violence.
Crusius drove more than 10 hours from his hometown near Dallas to carry out the shooting in the largely Latino city, according to police. Most of the dead had Hispanic last names, and eight were Mexican nationals. Federal prosecutors have said they are weighing hate-crime charges against Crusius that could also carry the death penalty.
Survivors of the El Paso attack have held vigils around the city, including outside of the jail in downtown El Paso where Crusius has been kept isolated from other prisoners, on suicide watch.
Less than 24 hours after the shooting in Texas, a masked gunman began shooting in a nightlife district of Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people and injuring 27 more. These shootings were followed weeks later by another in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa , where authorities say one man killed seven people and wounded about two dozen others while firing from a car. Unlike Crusius, the gunmen in both those attacks were killed by police.
The recent mass violence has fueled anger among gun control and immigration advocates, and caused political blowback.
Abbott acknowledged weeks after the attack that “mistakes were made ” when he sent a fundraising mailer encouraging supporters to “take matters into our own hands” and “DEFEND” Texas. He has resisted calls from Democrats to convene an emergency special session to vote on new gun-control measures, and a list of firearm safety recommendations he released Thursday didn’t include a push for mandatory background checks of private gun sales.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick drew the ire of the Nat ional Rifle Association last week after expressing support for background checks.
Abbott said lawmakers should instead focus on making voluntarily background checks easier for private sellers. Democrats and gun-control groups criticized Abbott’s recommendations as insufficient.
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