EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The El Paso community was reminded of the horrors of Aug. 3, when a gunman shot a killed 22 people inside the Walmart next to Cielo Vista Mall.
The suspect in the shooting, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, appeared in public for the first time since his arrest. He pleaded “not guilty” in an El Paso courtroom on Thursday.
As the community continues to heal and move forward, many hope their voices are heard as the case makes its way through the judicial system.
“Hopefully the justice system does its part,” said Norberto Suarez, who visited the makeshift memorial that after more than two months remains outside the Walmart
One El Pasoan in the courtroom wasn’t shocked over the suspected shooter’s plea.
“It doesn’t surprise me because a coward is a coward, and will always be a coward. That young man is a coward,” Maria Elena Gordon, a Chicano poet told KTSM, “He came, he targeted Mexican-Americans in our community and he killed. He injured a baby. The parents are dead. Now grandpas and grandmas can’t go back to their grandchildren.”
As this criminal case moves forward, some said they hope families can receive closure by facing the alleged gunman.
“I would hope that they allow the families of all those that were affected, numerous amounts of families that were affected, have their part and speak to him directly,” Suarez said, “Hopefully let him know that love is stronger than the hate that was in his heart that made him do this, and hopefully it will maybe speak to him somehow so he actually feels sorry for what he did here that affected so many people.”
Meanwhile, Gordon said she wants to see more activists show up to the courts. “This young man cannot get away with murdering, the biggest mass murder of a domestic terrorist in the United States. This is where it counts, in the courtroom.”
Suarez also had a message for those who continue to mourn the 22 live lost: “Forgiveness. Don’t hold that hate in your heart. It’ll just slowly eat you away. And no it’s not an easy thing to say and surely not an easy thing to do but I would advise people to do that because hate, as you saw here, hate does nothing but cause you pain. So forgiveness is the answer.”
Walmart is expected to re-open on November 6th. A memorial is also expected to be set up inside the store.