EL PASO, Texas (KTEP) – The man accused of killing 23 people at an El Paso Walmart pleaded guilty to 90 federal charges including murder and hate crimes.
Dressed in a dark blue prison jumpsuit, wearing a facemask and shackled, Patrick Crusius, showed little emotion as he listened to each one of the names of the 23 people gunned down at a Walmart in 2019 or injured in the attack. He answered guilty to each charge of murder and attempted murder as well as hate crimes.
A date for his sentencing has not been scheduled but federal judge David Guaderrama said it would be in June. Crusius, 24, initially entered a plea of not guilty in 2019. He changed his plea after federal prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty.
Prosecutors described his plan to carry out the attack including the details of his 10 hour drive from a suburb of Dallas to reach El Paso on August 3,2019.
Prosecutor Ian Hanna said Crusius put on shooting earmuffs before taking a semi-automatic rifle from his trunk and began firing in the parking lot before entering the store.
Hanna also said Cruisus had material in his computer about the white supremacist ideology called the "Great Replacement Theory" and a racist screed detailing his reason for the attack. The document stated Crusius wanted his actions to be a deterrence to immigrants from Hispanic countries, Hanna said.
"This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," Crusius' posted on a website used by White supremacists before the rampage. The federal prosecutor said he posted his views on a website called 8chan, an online message board that has drawn criticism for hosting hateful and extremist rhetoric.
Last month, federal prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty in the case. Defense attorneys promptly filed a notice stating Crusius would plead guilty days later.
The U.S. The Justice Department stipulates he must serve a life sentence for each count, which ultimately puts Crusius behind bars for the rest of his life. The plea also saves victims and their families from reliving the horrors of the Aug. 3, 2019 attack during a trial.
"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 B. Garland.
About 40 families of victims packed the courtroom and overflow area to watch the hearing.
They heard Crusius repeatedly respond "guilty" and state "I do," when federal judge David Guaderrama reminded him of his rights and asked if he was willfully giving up his rights to an appeal.
"It took so long to get justice," said Adria Gonzalez, a shopper inside the Walmart during the massacre. Gonzalez helped usher other people to the back of the store during the mass shooting.
"Actually, we wanted the death penalty, " Gonzalez said. Those who carry out mass shootings need to know there are consequences,” she added. "You will get the death penalty if you kill another human being. This was a hate crime. He was going for Mexican people."
Crusius' attorneys said they could not comment on today's hearing and are awaiting updates on their client's case with the state.
"There are no winners in this case," Joe Spencer, one of Crusius' attorneys told reporters. "The state case is still pending. We need to wait to see what happens."
Spencer said he could not comment further on the case due to a gag order in the state case. Last year, District Court Judge Sam Medrano implemented the rule to keep official dialogue about the case in court.
Newly-appointed El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks says his office will pursue the death penalty.
Timeline, Racist ideology
Federal prosecutor Ian Hanna followed Crusius' guilty pleas with a timeline of the attack at the El Paso Walmart on Aug 3. 2019. Crusius had posted his manifesto on 8chan at 10:20 a.m.
Hanna said it was around 10:37 a.m. when Crusius took an AK-47 style rifle manufactured in Romania out of his car's trunk in the store's parking lot. He had tried to purchase a bullet-proof vest but failed. And, he had also ordered 1,000 rounds of hollow point ammunition, Hanna added.
Wearing earmuffs, he began firing at customers in the parking lot, then at the entrance of the store.
When Crusius entered the store, he attacked nine people inside a bank area and then turned towards people hiding near cash registers, Hanna said. On his way out of the store, he shot at a car passing by.
According to Hanna, Crusius was influenced by a white supremacist ideology "Great Replacement Theory" or the belief that immigrants are "replacing" caucasian Americans.
Crusius' screed parroted the rhetoric of some Republican politicians in Texas describing the situation at the border as an "invasion."
Hanna said in court Crusius told law enforcement he was a white nationalist and was influenced by a manifesto posted by a gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
KTEP’News’ Angela Kocherga contributed to this report.