Sep 18, 2023 - News

Man who attacked Muslim-owned shop pleads guilty to hate crime charges

Illustration of crime scene tape reading CRIME SCENE and DO NOT CROSS over a dark background.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A man who opened fire at a Muslim-owned tire shop in 2015, killing a customer and wounding three people, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges last week.

Why it matters: It's rare for prosecutors to bring federal hate crime charges and win.

  • The 2015 tire shop shooting is one of the most notable anti-Muslim hate crimes in North Texas.

What happened: The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Anthony Paz Torres, 30 at the time, visited Omar's Wheels and Tires in Dallas a few days before the shooting, made anti-Muslim comments and said that he would come back.

  • When he returned on Christmas Eve, he asked the shop's customers if they were Muslim and opened fire at the shop, per the DOJ. Enrique Garcia-Mendoza, a tattoo artist visiting the shop for a flat tire, was killed in the shooting.
  • The Muslim shop owner grabbed his gun and fired back at Torres, injuring him and stopping him from shooting more people.
  • A Dallas County jury convicted Torres of murder in 2018. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

What's next: Torres now faces up to 37 years in prison on the five federal hate crime charges. His sentencing is scheduled for late January.

What they're saying: "Religious hatred, including anti-Muslim bigotry, has no place in America. And when that bigotry crosses the line into violence, we will not hesitate to hold perpetrators to account," U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton for the Northern District of Texas said in a statement.

  • The Texas office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it welcomes Torres' plea and hopes his sentencing will "send a strong message of deterrence to all those who would turn bigoted views into violent action."

Meanwhile: Most of the nation's 10 largest cities had significant jumps in hate crimes last year, increases that averaged 22% to a record 1,889 cases, according to a new report.

  • Reports of hate crimes in Dallas increased by 3.6% between 2021 and 2022.
  • Yes but: The study relied on hate crime stats from police data, state reports and open records requests. The number is likely higher when taking into account unreported hate crimes.

Worthy of your time: This 2016 Dallas Morning News story about the gun-loving Middle Eastern shop owner who confronted Torres and stopped the shooting.


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