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EL PASO, TX - 16 AUGUST 2019: Antonio Basco, whose wife Margie Reckard was one of 23 people killed by a gunman at a local Walmart, lays flowers in her honor at a makeshift memorial near the scene on 16 August 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Basco later invited the world to attend his wife's funeral. Thousands turned up. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

El Paso, Texas, Mass Shooter Gets 90 Life Sentences

A mass shooter who admitted to targeting Latinos in a 2019 attack at a Texas Walmart was given 90 consecutive life sentences by a federal judge on 7 July 2023. The shooting is one of the deadliest attacks on Latinos in modern U.S. history—23 people were killed and 22 were wounded, most of whom were of Mexican descent or were Mexican citizens.

The attacker, Patrick Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty to federal hate-crime charges in February. He agreed to the 90 life sentences in his plea agreement—one for each count on which he was indicted (45 counts of a hate crime-related charge and 45 counts of using a firearm during violent crimes). He also pleaded guilty to other hate-crime and firearm charges related to the 22 people who were injured.

Federal prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in this case, but the attacker could face the death penalty in a state capital murder case against him concerning the shooting, which has not yet been scheduled for trial.

In the days before the sentencing, witnesses and victims’ family members spoke to the shooter directly to express their grief and anger. They berated the defendant for robbing children of their parents, they showed photos of the victims, and they expressed fury that victims—their friends and loved ones—were taken from them, the BBC reported. This is a rare opportunity in mass shooting cases—of the six deadliest shootings in U.S. history, this is the only one in which the gunman faced trial, rather than dying by suicide or police gunshot during the attack.

“We hope this sentence will bring some small measure of justice to those impacted by this massacre of innocent people targeted for no other reason than their Hispanic identity and national origin,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in a Department of Justice press release. “This hate crime, that extinguished the lives of 23 innocent people, stands as one of the most horrific acts of white nationalist-driven violence in modern times. We lift up the legacies of those who lost their lives and those who survived this tragedy and will ensure that they are never forgotten. Make no mistake, white nationalist hate crimes have no place in our country today, and we must bring every tool at our disposal to confront this threat.”

The shooter admitted to driving more than 650 miles from his home in the Dallas area to the border city of El Paso, Texas, in search of Hispanic victims. He opened fire outside a Walmart store before continuing inside. He was armed with an AK-47-style rifle and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, according to the indictment. He surrendered to police after the attack.

The motive behind the attack was quickly apparent. Before the shooting, Crusius posted a hate-filled manifesto that used white supremacist rhetoric to explain his actions, The Washington Post reported. He admitted that he selected El Paso as a target to dissuade Hispanic immigrants from coming to the United States.

The attacker’s attorney, Joe Spencer, told the Post that Crusius suffered from mental illness throughout his life and had lost touch with reality, and he was struggling with violent thoughts and delusions.

U.S. District Judge David C. Guaderrama recommended Crusius be held at a maximum security prison in Colorado, where he should receive treatment for a “severe mental health condition,” according to the Post.