AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – The Texas man accused of deliberately targeting Mexicans in a shooting spree at an El Paso Walmart store that killed 22 people is due in court on Thursday for his arraignment.
Patrick Crusius, 21, was indicted last month for capital murder and will face the death penalty if he is convicted, the El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza said.
Another 26 people were wounded during the shooting.
The Texas killings were followed just 13 hours later by a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman wearing body armour and a mask killed nine people and wounded 27 others before he was shot dead by police.
The back-to-back massacres sparked a political outcry, with El Paso native and Democratic Party presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke demanding the mandatory confiscation of the assault-style rifles often used in mass shootings.
The El Paso shooting prompted powerful Texas Republicans including Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to retreat somewhat on their staunch defence of gun rights.
Both floated the idea of requiring universal background checks on people seeking to buy guns and talked about “red flag” laws that would allow people to petition a court to have an individual’s guns taken away. Even so, no concrete legislative action has yet taken place in Texas.
Crusius is accused of driving 11 hours from his hometown of Allen, near Dallas, to El Paso on Aug. 3 and firing at shoppers with an AK47 rifle inside a Walmart store. He surrendered to officers who confronted him outside the Walmart.
Crusius confessed while surrendering and told police he was targeting Mexicans, according to an El Paso police affidavit released days after the shooting. Most of those killed were Latinos.
A four-page statement believed to have been written by the suspect and posted on 8chan, an online message board often used by extremists, called the Walmart attack “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Frank McGurty and David Gregorio)