The self-characterized white nationalist mass shooter who in August 2019 targeted the peaceful El Paso community and carried out the deadliest attack against Latinos in modern U.S. history has pleaded guilty to 90 federal hate crimes and firearm violations, federal prosecutors said.
The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that the 24-year-old pleaded guilty to 45 violations of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and 45 counts of using a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence. The racist mass killer agreed to the plea in exchange for avoiding the death penalty, The New York Times reports. Each of the 90 violations that the killer pleaded to carries a life sentence, prosecutors said. However, he could still face death for state capital murder charges, for which he has not yet been tried.
“This guilty plea cannot bring back those whose lives were lost, or heal those still suffering,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, “but it does put us firmly on the path to justice.”
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The Justice Department said per a “statement of facts agreed to and signed” by the defendant, he admitted that he targeted shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso “because of the actual and perceived Hispanic national origin of the people he expected to be at the Walmart.” Federal prosecutors said he admitted to selecting the border city, a nearly ten-hour drive from his home, “as his target to dissuade Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants from coming to the United States.”
Daily Kos’ Dave Neiwert reported at the time that the white supremacist had initially sneered at the idea he was racist, despite complaining in his scrawlings about a supposed “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
“Among those killed were parents, grandparents and spouses from both sides of the US-Mexico border,” CNN reported at the time. Several were killed shielding their spouses, children, and grandchildren with their bodies. Andre and Jordan Anchondo were doing last-minute shopping for a planned barbecue when the shooting began. Andre “died protecting Jordan; she died shielding their 2-month-old baby, Paul, who was grazed by a bullet but survived the shooting,” NPR reported at the time.
21 others were senselessly murdered in addition to the Anchondos. Their names were Arturo Benavides, Jorge Calvillo Garcia, Guillermo Garcia, Leonardo Campos, Angelina Englisbee, Maria Flores, Raul Flores, Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, Alexander Hoffmann, David Johnson, Luis Alfonso Juarez, Maria Legarreta Rothe, Maribel Loya Hernandez, Ivan Filiberto Manzano, Gloria Irma Marquez, Elsa Mendoza Marquez, Margie Reckard, Sara Regalado Monreal, Javier Amir Rodriguez, Teresa Sanchez, and Juan Velasquez.
Guillermo Garcia was a beloved soccer coach who died from his injuries nine months after the shooting. Garcia, who was also known as Memo, “had been outside of the Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, helping with a fundraiser for his daughter’s soccer team when he was attacked,” LULAC said. Twenty-two others were also wounded in the shooting.
The devastation from the attack rocked Latinos all across the nation. Indeed, many had feared that this day was imminent, after Donald Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign by calling Mexicans criminals and rapists. Some, he said he assumed, are “good people.” It was a racist clarion call to extremists, sparking an escalation in hate crimes targeting immigrants and other marginalized communities.
“I’m watching everyone from the corner of my eye. It’s come to this—you’ve got to watch where you shop,” David Llamas, a souvenir vendor from southern California, told The Los Angeles Times at the time. “Things have changed: We’ve got a president who is promoting racism.”
Unfortunately, Republican leaders continue to share and promote conspiracy theories supported by the racist mass shooter. During a House Oversight hearing just this week, Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert falsely claimed, “there is an invasion happening at our southern border.” She is in no way an outlier. New York’s Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, released advertising echoing the great replacement conspiracy theory. The year following those ads, another racist shooter who believed in the conspiracy theory would target her state, murdering ten Black shoppers. Ted Cruz also echoed “invasion” rhetoric after both the Texas and New York shootings.
“White nationalist-fueled violence has no place in our society today,” Clarke also said in her remarks. It has no place in our nation’s government, either.
“As an El Pasoan myself, I know that although this guilty plea represents a step forward for the victims of this crime, there is much more that needs to be done to bring justice to this community and to the immigrants whose lives were forever altered,” Gloria Amesquita, spokesperson and legal assistant with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “Those in power must reject the racist and violent rhetoric and worldview that led the shooter to kill 23 people in cold blood. They must stop the use of words like ‘invasion’ to describe arriving immigrants or ‘warzone’ to describe border communities like El Paso.”
El Paso killer's manifesto regurgitates white-supremacist hate, but sneers at the idea he's racist
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