An anti-immigrant gunman accused of killing 22 people and wounding two dozen more at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, last summer has been charged with federal hate crimes.
Justice Department officials , at a news conference said that a federal jury in El Paso indicted Patrick Crusius on 90 charges. Those include 22 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, 23 counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill and 45 counts of using a firearm for a hate crime.
Patrick, 21 posted an online manifesto before the August 3 shooting. He expressed his desire to kill as many Hispanic people as possible. He claimed them of culturally replacing native-born Americans and taking away their job opportunities.
“He committed these crimes to frighten and intimidate the Hispanic community,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband at a news conference announcing the charges.
“People in our nation have the right to go to a store on a Saturday morning without fear that they will be shot and killed because of who they are or where they are from.”
“Hate crime charges show members of targeted communities that “they are valued, that their protection matters, and then we will protect them and their rights,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the DOJ Civil Rights Division.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) will consult with the defence and victims’ families before deciding of pursuing a death penalty.
Ultimately, the decision is up to Attorney General William Barr.The DOJ will prosecute on a parallel track with state officials. Crusius faces the death penalty on a state capital murder charge to which he pleaded not guilty last year.
What happened in El Paso?
The shooting took place in a border city of the US with 6,80,000 residents that is 80% Hispanic population.
Crusius is accused of driving 11 hours to El Paso from his hometown of Allen, near Dallas, on 3 August and opening fire with an AK-47 style rifle inside the Walmart store.
He then surrendered and confessed that he was targeting Mexicans.
In a manifesto posted on the now-defunct message board 8-chan, he wrote that the killings were “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
Crusius faces the death penalty on a state capital murder charge, to which he pleaded not guilty last year.