The wife of an El Paso Walmart shooting victim, who just had a Sun Metro bus station named in his honor, became the latest Friday to join a lawsuit against the retail giant alleging lax security.
Arturio Benavides was shopping at the eastside store with his wife of 33 years, Patricia, when a gunman opened fire on the morning of Aug. 3. The 60-year-old Arturo, who was standing in a checkout line, was among the 22 killed; 63-year-old Patricia wasn’t hurt because she had left the checkout line moments before the shooting to find a place to sit and rest and was able to hide in a restroom.
The legal filings in this case in El Paso County court, contend that while Walmart has security guards on duty in some of its stores, the Cielo Vista location did not appear to have any.
Given shooting incidents at other Walmart stores in Texas and around the nation prior to Aug. 3, lawyers representing the Benavides family claim the company “had a duty to have security guards and other security measures at its stores, to discourage such shootings and to engage any shooter that may attempt to harm their employees or customers.”
Arturio Benavides, a sports-loving U.S. Army veteran, retired in 2013 after working for more than a decade as a driver for the Sun Metro bus system. El Paso City Council last week voted to name Sun Metro transfer station near the scene of the horrific mass shooting the ‘Arturo Benavides Eastside Transit Center.’ His wife wept as she thanked city officials for honoring her husband.
Others participating in the lawsuit alleging that Walmart failed to provide adequate security at Cielo Vista are the family of Leonardo Campos and his wife, Maribel Hernandez, who were also killed in the attack. Jessica and Guillermo Garcia, who were wounded, filed the initial lawsuit against the retailer last month.
Walmart responded to Friday’s developments in a statement that said it considers the safety of its employees and customers to be a “top priority.”
The company also filed a response with the court saying that the “loss of life and harm were caused intentionally and solely by (accused gunman Patrick) Crusius.”
Alexandria Zant, an El Paso attorney who is not connected to this case, told ABC-7 that those suing Walmart face an uphill battle.
“It is going to be a very difficult case for the plaintiffs. The law for the state of Texas is generally that property owners are not responsible for the criminal acts of third parties in exception of special circumstances,” Zant said, which is why Walmart’s response seeks to place the blame squarely on the accused shooter.
The 21-year-old Crusius, of the Dallas suburb of Allen, has been indicted on capital murder of multiple persons charges and prosecutors are seeking to have him sentenced to execution if convicted.
He pleaded “not guilty” during his arraignment in court last week and remains jailed without bond until his trial, which has yet to be scheduled.
Carrying a legally purchased 7.62-caliber firearm, authorities contend Crusius drove 11 hours from Allen to El Paso to carry out the mass shooting on Aug. 3. He fled the Walmart in his car but turned himself in less than an hour later, according to police. His arrest warrant said he declared: “I’m the shooter.”
His motive is outlined in statements he purportedly gave to police after his arrest. Court documents indicated he admitted to targeting Hispanics in his shooting rampage at the store because of his concerns about a so-called invasion of Mexicans into Texas.