(Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday sentenced a white supremacist to 90 consecutive life terms in prison for a 2019 shooting in which he killed 23 people and wounded 22 others at a Texas Walmart while targeting Hispanics, according to court records and prosecutors.
The sentencing by U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama in El Paso adhered to a plea agreement from February in which shooter Patrick Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty to and agreed to 90 consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole in order to avoid the federal death penalty. He still faces Texas state charges that could result in the death penalty.
Included in the plea were 45 counts of violating hate crimes and 45 counts of using a firearm during a violent crime.
Crusius did not speak in court. His attorney Joe Spencer made a statement for him in which he said the shooter suffered from mental illness which drove him to carry out the shooting, according to the Texas Tribune newspaper. Prosecutors rebutted that and said Crusius knew what he was doing when he carried out the massacre.
Margaret Leachman, first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas that prosecuted the case, said in a written statement that she hopes the victims’ families find “some finality and peace” with the sentencing.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas will continue to aggressively prosecute those who commit violence because of bias or hate, seeking justice in the names of the victims and their loved ones,” Leachman said.
Crusius’ federal sentencing followed two days of emotional testimony from witnesses, some of the 22 wounded survivors as well as relatives of the 23 dead who delivered impact statements in the presence of the shooter
“I want you dead,” said Genesis Davila, who was 12 years old and present while her soccer coach was killed and her father was wounded.
She looked directly at the shooter on Wednesday and told him, “I hate you so much. Hell has a special place for you,” KVIA television reported.
Thomas Hoffman, who lost his father, Alexander Hoffman, called the shooter an “evil parasite” on Wednesday and said, “You are nothing without your weapon,” the Dallas Morning News reported.
Prosecutors said the shooter drove more than 600 miles (1,000 km) overnight from suburban Dallas to the border city of El Paso, carrying out the massacre on Aug. 3, 2019, with a Romanian derivative of the AK-47 and hollow-point ammunition.
Just before the assault, the shooter posted on the internet a manifesto that declared, “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by the invasion.”
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Brad Brooks; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Mark Porter and David Gregorio)
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