Suspect in El Paso Shooting Indicted on Capital Murder Charge

Share:
People pray and pay their respects at the makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting that left a total of 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

People pray and pay their respects at the makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting that left a total of 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall Walmart in El Paso, Texas. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

September 12, 2019

The suspect in the mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that left 22 dead and dozens wounded was indicted on a capital murder charge Thursday.  

Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old white male, is facing the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole if found guilty. He is on suicide watch and is being held without bond in the El Paso County Detention Center. Jaime Esparza, the district attorney for El Paso, said he will seek the death penalty.

The grand jury decision comes more than a month after a gunman entered a busy Walmart on a Saturday morning carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. After he was arrested, the defendant told authorities he was targeting Mexicans, according to an affidavit, and wanted to shoot as many as possible. FRONTLINE reporters were in El Paso in the aftermath of the shooting for an upcoming documentary.

Authorities are investigating whether a hate-filled manifesto, posted online minutes before the first shots were fired in the Walmart, is linked to the suspect. The 2,300-word screed states the attack was spurred by the “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and warned that whites will be replaced by foreigners.

The Department of Justice is treating the massacre as a domestic terrorism case and is weighing a possible hate crime connection. Prosecution under domestic terrorism may be onerous — there is no specific domestic terrorism law in the federal criminal code. 

The charge comes on the heels of a series of sweeping laws that loosen gun restrictions in Texas. Starting Sept. 1, Texas school districts can no longer prohibit licensed gun owners from storing firearms or ammunition in vehicles on a school parking lot. In addition, landlords and homeowners cannot prohibit residents from lawfully carrying firearms or ammunition on the property. A total of nine firearm laws were passed in the state this month.  

A total of 29 people died in mass shootings in Texas in August. Shortly after the El Paso massacre, a gunman in Odessa started indiscriminately shooting at cars, killing seven. It was the 38th mass shooting in the United States this year.

Last month, the Texas Tribune reported that the Walmart suspect bought his assault weapon online from Romania and a thousand rounds of ammunition from Russia. El Paso police had previously said that the alleged gunman purchased the AK-47 used in the massacre legally. The details come from an internal Texas Department of Public Safety report obtained by the Tribune.

The report also notes that the suspect “was surprised no one challenged him or shot him” when he walked into the Walmart openly carrying an assault weapon.


Marcia Robiou

Marcia Robiou, Hollyhock Filmmaker-in-Residence, FRONTLINE

Twitter:

@MarciaRobiou

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Once Viewed as a 'Paper Tiger,' POST Board Pursues New Reforms to Discipline Misbehaving Police
The Minnesota board's proposed ban on police officers belonging to white supremacist groups, criminal gangs or any extremist group is "a no-brainer," said POST chair and Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy, who has championed the reforms.
May 22, 2022
Ex-MPD Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter Charge for Role in George Floyd’s Murder
He was one of three officers convicted in federal court and expected to face trial next month on state charges.
May 18, 2022
9 Documentaries That Provide Context on the Buffalo Shooting
As America grapples with the deadly massacre, FRONTLINE's past reporting sheds light on the current moment and the circumstances that led to it, from guns to America's history of racist killings.
May 17, 2022
War Crimes Watch: Targeting Ukraine Schools, Russia Bombs the Future
The destruction of schools is about more than toppling buildings and maiming bodies, experts told our reporting partner The Associated Press. It hinders a nation’s ability to rebound after the fighting stops, injuring entire generations.
May 17, 2022