Feds won’t seek death penalty for alleged El Paso Walmart shooter

The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that the federal government will not seek the death penalty for a man accused of the hate-motivated murder of 23 people at a Walmart store in El Paso in 2019.

“The United States of America hereby notifies the Court and Defendant PATRICK WOOD CRUZIUS that the government will not seek the death penalty in this case,” prosecutors said in a one-sentence statement.

The prosecution of the alleged Walmart shooter was thwarted by riots at the El Paso District Attorney’s office.

The Justice Department has not requested the death penalty in a new case since Attorney General Merrick Garland took office in 2021. Garland and President Joe Biden opposed the federal death penalty, and Garland imposed a moratorium on its use pending a review of policies and procedures.

Patrick Crusius, 24, of Allen, Texas, is charged with 23 counts of hate crime resulting in death, 23 counts of using a firearm to commit murder in a violent crime, 22 counts of felony hatred in attempted murder and 22 cases of the use of firearms during violent crimes. With the death penalty out of the question, the maximum federal penalty he faces is life in prison.

Crusius allegedly killed 23 people and injured 22 people in an August 3, 2019 attack on a Cielo Vista Walmart supermarket. The article, which Crusius allegedly published minutes before the attack on a website frequently used by white supremacists, said the attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

A trial on federal charges is scheduled for January 2024. Crusius has also been charged with 23 aggravated murders in state court, for which a death sentence may be imposed, but a trial date for these charges has not yet been set.

While the Justice Department has not required the death penalty since Biden and Garland took office, a decision late last year said the Justice Department could continue to apply the death penalty in cases of terrorist attacks.

The case is linked to a 2017 attack in which Saifullo Saipov killed eight people and injured more than a dozen when he crashed his rented pickup truck into a crowded New York City bike lane.

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The Justice Department under President Donald Trump was seeking the death penalty for Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant who prosecutors said wanted to “promote the ideological goals” of the Islamic State.

His defense lawyers have petitioned the Justice Department to abolish the death penalty in the case, as the Department has done 25 times since Garland took office, according to the New York Times.

In September 2022, the Department of Justice decided to continue seeking the death penalty. Saipov’s trial began last week in New York.

This report was originally published El Paso Mattersa non-partisan, member-supported media organization.

Two years after the El Paso massacre, political tensions over immigration have not subsided.

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