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El Paso suspect charged with capital murder; possible hate crimes

By
Allen Cone, Ed Adamczyk & Clyde Hughes
Mug shot Patrick Crusius, the suspect in Saturday's mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, which was released Sunday. Photo by FBI/EPA-EFE
Mug shot Patrick Crusius, the suspect in Saturday's mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, which was released Sunday. Photo by FBI/EPA-EFE

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The 21-year-old lone suspect in Saturday's massacre at a Walmart Supercenter in El Paso, Texas, that killed 20 people is being held on state capital murder charges and his actions are being investigated as federal hate crimes.

Patrick Crusius, whose residence is 650 miles away in Allen, a Dallas suburb, is an inmate at El Paso County's downtown jail, a representative confirmed to UPI on Sunday morning. Later Sunday at a news conference, the alleged shooter's identity was revealed along with a mugshot.

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John Bash, the U.S. Attorney for Western District of Texas John Bash, plans to pursue federal hate crime, domestic terrorism and federal firearm charges separately from the state charges.

"We are treating this as a domestic terrorist case and we are going to do what we do to terrorists in this country which is bring swift and certain justice," Bash said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

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Crusius will face the death penalty if convicted on the possible federal charges.

El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza said Sunday that his office will seek the death penalty on the capital murder charges.

On Saturday, Paso Police Chief Greg Allen only acknowledged the suspect as being white, male and 21 during news conferences.

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Patrick Crusius attended Collin College in McKinney, Texas, from 2017 through this year, the community college confirmed on Saturday night. The school added that it is "prepared to cooperate fully with state and federal authorities in this investigation of this senseless tragedy."

At least 20 people died, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, and another 26 were injured when a gunman opened fire at a Walmart packed with shoppers, including buying back-to-school items. Allen said he surrendered to authorities in the store.

El Paso Police Sgt. Robert Gomez said that the suspect is speaking to investigators and that "his motives and what transpired are being investigated."

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Three people shot remained in critical condition at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Dr. Stephen Flaherty, director of the hospital, said Sunday morning. Eight others being treated at the hospital are in stable condition. He added that their ages range between 25 and 82.

"We do anticipate one patient being discharged today," Flaherty said. "Some of the other stable patients, when they wake up, we will evaluate when they can go home."

Patients also were being treated at other hospitals, including the University Medical Center. On Saturday, UMC received at least 13 victims with "level one" injuries, which is the most serious level.

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Hospitals recently conducted a mock drill if there was an active shooter in El Paso.

"How would those patients be distributed in the city? How would the hospital respond? Flaherty said during the news conference. We brought people into the hospital for a dry-run situation just like that. So we have been through this before without real patients. But as you know, when this happens for real and it's not just an exercise, there are a lot of feelings and emotions attached to it."

Authorities are reviewing a four-page manifesto allegedly written by Cruisius and posted on the Internet days earlier, for a motive. It has not been determined if the suspect is the author, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a domestic terrorism investigation into the shooting.

"In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto," it begins, a reference to the March attack on mosques in New Zealand in which 51 people were killed. "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 an invasion."

It mentions automatic weapons which are the author's preferred means of instigating an attack, and several times refers to a "rotting of America from within."

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Allen said Sunday that the suspect has cooperated with them so far and admitted he did not break any laws by carrying his AK-47 into Walmart because of the state's open-carry provisions.

"He was forthcoming with information," Allen said. "He basically didn't hold anything back. ... Within our purview allowed to open carry, that weapon [is] allowable in the state of Texas, yes."

The bodies will remain inside the Walmart until the crime scene is processed. And no victims' names have been released.

"One murder occurrence can take all day; now we have 20 victims," Gomez told reporters Saturday night. "I can tell you that the investigators are doing their best to complete this investigation properly with the respect and dignity that the victims deserve."

Authorities are working to collect evidence, diagram the scene and identify victims, Gomez said.

In addition, vehicles will remain in the parking lot for "several days as they are part of the crime scene" according to El Paso police.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection advised that it is "not conducting enforcement operations at area hospitals, the family reunification center or shelters," so that people seeking information on injured relatives can do so without regard to immigration status.

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Six of those who died and seven who were injured were Mexican nationals, Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard blamed the U.S. government for putting the Mexican-American community ar risk.

"The president of the Republic has instructed me so that this posture and indignation from Mexico is translated, first in protecting affected families, and then in legal actions, efficient and prompt, quick and convincing so that Mexico can demand the conditions to protect to the Mexican-American community and Mexicans in the United States," Ebrard said in a video post.

Democratic presidential candidate and El Paso native Beto O'Rouke used the shooting to attack Trump, telling CNN's State of the Union that the president's past rhetoric toward migrants set the stage for the tragic shooting.

"The things that he has said both as a candidate and then as the president of the United States, this cannot be open for debate," O'Rourke said. "We have a problem with white nationalist terrorism in the United States of America today. These are white men motivated by the kind of fear that this president traffics in.

"All of us -- Republicans, Democrats, independents alike -- rising up, standing up to be counted against what this President is doing, against this white nationalist racism, against this violence and getting this country back," he continued.

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Trump described the killings as "not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice. I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today's hateful act," in a Twitter post Saturday night. "There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people."

Flags have been ordered at half staff in all state buildings, federal government buildings, military installations and vessels, and facilities abroad through Thursday at sunset. President Donald Trump's order simultaneously honors the victims of the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine victims.

The parents of a student killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., last year were across the border in El Paso on Saturday.

Manuel and Patricia Oliver, parents of Joaquin Oliver, were to unveil a memorial mural at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso on Sunday, which would have been his 19th birthday.

"I'm not surprised it happened," Manuel Oliver, a 51-year-old artist, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Saturday night. "I've been fighting the last two years telling people it could happen anywhere, anytime."

In 2015, Walmart ceased all sales of modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15. In 2018 the retailer raised the age of firearm and ammunition sales from 18 to 21.

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In New Mexico, Walmart will cease selling firearms later this month because of a new state law that expands background checks.

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