EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – As the federal hate crimes case against the El Paso Walmart mass shooter concludes, Texas state prosecutors are preparing to take Patrick Wood Crusius to court once again. And this time, his life will be on the line.
“I want to emphasize that nothing that happens in the federal courthouse will affect what happens in the state courthouse,” El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks said on Thursday. “We are still going to be prosecuting the Walmart shooter. We are still going to be seeking the death penalty.”
Crusius has pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes and weapons charges. Senior U.S. Federal District Judge David C. Guaderrama is expected to sentence him to 90 consecutive terms of life in prison on Friday under the plea agreement.
Crusius, who according to investigators on the morning of Aug. 3, 2019, drove 10 hours from North Texas to El Paso to “kill Mexicans,” will go remain on federal custody at the El Paso County Jail until October or November. Twenty-three people died in the attack and 22 others sustained injuries.
“We originally thought we would have him back in our custody a little sooner,” Hicks said. “We’ve waited four years to prosecute him, waiting another couple of months is not going to change anything.”
The state is charging Crusius with one count of capital murder involving multiple victims, and 22 counts for aggravated assault, the DA said at a news conference Thursday in his office.
“Although (the charges) come out of the same incident, the federal charges are hate-crime oriented and for the use of a firearm. Our case is simpler, more straightforward. He committed murder of multiple people at one time. (That’s) capital murder,” Hicks said.
The district attorney declined to answer some reporters’ questions due to a gag order issued by State District Judge Sam Medrano. But the DA emphasized his commitment to secure a conviction and give the jury the option to sentence the defendant to death.
“One of my number one objectives, when I took this job, was to get the Walmart case back on track. We have done that,” Hicks said. “We have a dedicated highly skilled qualified team of prosecutors, investigators and staff members dedicated to prosecuting nothing but the Walmart case. Whenever Judge Medrano tells us, we will be ready to prosecute this case.”
No date has been set yet for the state capital murder trial against Crusius, and the DA’s Office can only estimate it will take place sometime in 2024 or early 2025.
Hicks said it was a “tremendous burden” to decide on whether to seek the death penalty against the shooter because of strong community emotions on the issue.
“Ultimately, the decision will be left in the jury’s hands […] I felt it is appropriate that a jury reach that decision, not us,” he said.