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Federal hate crimes case against accused Walmart shooter delayed due to Covid & complexities

Patrick Crusius during his arraignment on state murder charges.
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Patrick Crusius during his arraignment on state murder charges.

EL PASO, Texas — The man accused of killing 23 people and wounding two dozen more in a shooting at El Paso's Cielo Vista Walmart had a court status conference on his federal hate crimes charges delayed Monday.

The Feb. 1 hearing for Patrick Crusius has now been rescheduled for May 3, according to a court order signed by Judge David Guaderrama, due to Covid-19 and "the need for investigation and/or preparation of the defense due to complex discovery."

The purpose of a status conference, which is a meeting of the judge and the lawyers, is to determine how the case is progressing. Typically, a trial date can be set at a scheduling conference along with other case deadlines.

Crusius, 21, is charged with 90 counts under federal hate crime and firearms laws for his role in the Aug. 3, 2019 mass shooting that authorities said was aimed at scaring Hispanics into leaving the United States, according to the indictment previously filed against him.

Federal attorneys have said they are prosecuting on a parallel track with state officials, who have lodged a separate capital murder indictment. Crusius, of Allen, Texas, faces the death penalty if convicted on the state charges to which he has previously pleaded not guilty.

Federal prosecutors are also currently deciding whether to seek the death penalty against Crusius on the hate crimes counts, to which he has also pleaded not guilty. They are expected to make a decision about what sentence to seek by July 30.

Defense lawyers have maintained their client has diagnosed mental disabilities that should be a “red flag” for prosecutors considering whether to seek the death penalty.

Crusius “has been diagnosed with severe, lifelong neurological and mental disabilities” and was treated with anti-psychotic medication following his arrest moments after the massacre in El Paso, his attorneys wrote in a prior court filing.

The federal grand jury that indicted Crusius found his alleged crimes came “after substantial planning and premeditation.” He bought a Romanian-made AK-47-style rifle and 1,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition online more than six weeks before he drove 10 hours overnight from his grandparents’ house in a Dallas suburb to El Paso to carry out the attack, according to the indictment.

Crusius surrendered to police after the attack, saying, “I’m the shooter,” and that he was targeting Hispanics, according to his arrest warrant.

In prior court documents, prosecutors have said Crusius published a screed online shortly before the shooting that said it was “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” It cited, as inspiration, a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed scores of Muslim residents of that country.

Crusius remains held without bond in the El Paso County Jail, where he has been since being taken into custody for the mass shooting. Officials have said he is kept isolated from other prisoners and indicated he was on a suicide watch in the initial months following his arrest.

(The Associated Press contributed background to this report.)

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Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the former Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.


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