El Paso shooting: Prosecutors to seek death penalty for Texas gunman in attack treated as domestic terrorism

At least 20 people are dead and dozens are injured after gunman opened fire Saturday 

Clark Mindock
New York
Sunday 04 August 2019 13:27 BST
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(AP)

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Prosecutors in Texas have announced they will seek the death penalty for the gunman who opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, killing at least 20 people and injuring dozens more.

"This is a very difficult time for our community. It's certainly with a heavy heart that I talk to you," said El Paso district attorney Jaime Esparza during a press conference on Sunday morning. "We will proceed with the investigation. I can tell you from the outset ... the state charge is capital murder, and so he is eligible for the death penalty. We will seek the death penalty."

Mr Esparza was joined by US attorney John Bash, who said that the federal government is conducting its investigation "with a view" of bringing hate crime and firearm charges against the suspect, who has been identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius. The Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, and the El Paso Police Department are also involved in the investigation.

"We are also treating this as a domestic terrorism case," Mr Bash said.

The charges come after Mr Crusius allegedly opened fire on the shopping centre, which officials said had as many as 3,000 people shopping at the time for the busy back-to-school season.

In a press conference following the shooting on Saturday, El Paso police chief Greg Allen referenced a document though to have been left behind by the shooter that detailed anti-immigrant beliefs and a keen interest in killing as many people as possible.

In response to that document, Mr Allen said that the shooting may have been a "nexus" of a hate crime, but did not elaborate further on that point.

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One US soldier who is stationed at Fort Bliss told local media that he immediately took the gunshots seriously, and began to try and help people amid the chaos.

"We run towards Dillard's, and it's like a play pen over there. I see a whole bunch of kids like, without their parents running around screaming and crying, so I grab as many as possible," Glendon Oakley, the solider, told WMAZ.

He continued: "I try to get a couple of other people too, you know, grab other kids, but parents are so worried about themselves, they're gone. I'm thinking if I had a child what would I want somebody else to do.“

The shooting has once again sparked a debate over the role of guns in the United States, with Democrats calling for further gun control measures to try to combat an epidemic that is unique to the country in the developed world.

Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic presidential candidate who lives in El Paso, suspended his campaign shortly after the attack, and wasted no time before denouncing the hatred of the moment as a tragedy goaded on by the rhetoric of Donald Trump, who launched his political career attacking Mexicans has rapists and criminals.

"We've got to acknowledge the hatred, the open racism that we're seeing. There is an environment of it in the United States. We see it on Fox News. We see it on the internet. But, we also see it from our commander-in-chief," Mr O'Rourke told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday morning. "He is encouraging this. He doesn't just tolerate it, he encourages it."

In a statement, Walmart said that it was "praying" for those impacted.

We are "praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders," the statement reads.

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