Police say the shooter drove more than 700 miles from his home to target Hispanic people with an AK-style assault rifle at the store. A white gunman who killed 23 people in a racist attack on Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart in a Texas border city was sentenced on Friday to 90 consecutive life sentences but could still face more punishment, including the death penalty.
Police say Crusius drove more than 700 miles from his home near Dallas to target Hispanic people with an AK-style assault rifle inside and outside the store. Moments before the attack began, Crusius posted a racist screed online that warned of a Hispanic “invasion” of Texas.
In the years since the shooting, Republicans have described migrants crossing the US-Mexico border as an “invasion”, waving off critics who say the rhetoric fuels anti-immigrant views and violence.
Crusius pleaded guilty in February after federal prosecutors took the death penalty off the table. But Texas prosecutors have said they will try to put Crusius on death row when he stands trial in state court. That trial date has not yet been set.
The sentencing by the US district judge David Guaderrama in El Paso followed two days of impact statements from relatives of the victims, including citizens of Mexico. In addition to the dead, more than two dozen people were injured and numerous others were severely traumatized as they hid or fled.
One by one, family members used their first opportunity since the shooting to directly address Crusius, describing how their lives have been upended by grief and pain. Some forgave Crusius. One man displayed photographs of his slain father, insisting that the gunman look at them.
Bertha Benavides’s husband of 34 years, Arturo, was among those killed.
“You left children without their parents, you left spouses without their spouses, and we still need them,” she told Crusius.
During the victims’ testimony, Crusius occasionally swiveled his seat or bobbed his head but showed little visible emotion.
Before the shooting, Crusius had appeared consumed by the nation’s immigration debate, tweeting #BuildtheWall and posts that praised then president Donald Trump’s hardline border policies.
As the sentencing phase got underway, some advocates for immigrant rights made new appeals for politicians to soften their rhetoric on immigration. Republicans, including Texas governor Greg Abbott, have pushed for more aggressive actions to harden the southern US border.
Amaris Vega’s aunt was killed in the attack and her mother narrowly survived a softball-sized wound to the chest. In court, Vega railed at Crusius’s “pathetic, sorry manifesto” that promised to rid Texas of Hispanics.
“But guess what? You didn’t. You failed,” she told him. “We are still here and we are not going anywhere. And for four years you have been stuck in a city full of Hispanics. … So let that sink in.”