Updated Feb 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Suspected El Paso Walmart shooter pleads guilty

A large crowd of mourners hold candles during a night time vigil in El Paso Texas. one person waves a large American flag.

A candlelight vigil at a makeshift memorial for victims of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The suspect in the 2019 El Paso Walmart mass shooting on Wednesday pleaded guilty to 90 federal hate crimes and firearms violations, according to the Department of Justice.

Driving the news: As part of the guilty plea, Crusius admitted that he killed and wounded people at the store because of the "actual and perceived Hispanic national origin" of the people he expected to be at the Walmart, per the DOJ.

  • He further admitted that he intended to kill everyone he shot.

What they're saying: “Today, the Justice Department secured the guilty plea of Patrick Wood Crusius, a self-described white nationalist, for federal hate crime and firearms offenses in connection with the deadly mass shooting targeting people perceived to be Hispanic immigrants at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement.

  • “White nationalist-fueled violence has no place in our society today,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

The big picture: Federal prosecutors announced in January that they would not seek the death penalty against Crusius.

  • Crusius' attorney soon after filed a motion asking for a new arraignment, indicating that the suspect would change his plea from not guilty to guilty.
  • Crusius posted a racist screed online shortly before the shooting, according to prosecutors.

What to watch: Crusius' trial in state court on capital murder charges has not been set. State prosecutors in El Paso say they still intend to seek the death penalty.

  • Crusius has pleaded not guilty to the state charges.

Context: Within the roughly first few weeks of 2023, there were more mass shootings in the U.S. than days, per research group the Gun Violence Archive.

  • The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as a situation in which at least four people are shot and either injured or killed, not including the shooter.
  • There were 647 mass shootings in 2022 and another 690 in 2021, data from the research group shows.

Go deeper: 1 in 5 Americans have experience with gun violence: Poll

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