The suspect in the 2019 mass shooting that left 23 people dead at an El Paso Walmart was expected to plead guilty Wednesday to federal hate crimes.
Just days after federal prosecutors last month said they would seek the death penalty, lawyers for Patrick Crusius said in a court filing that he would change his plea to guilty.
Crusius faces life in prison on the federal charges. He faces the death penalty on state charges. He is scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
Prosecutors say on August 3, 2019 Crusius drove 11 hours to El Paso, which borders Mexico, from his home in suburban Dallas. They say he fired at shoppers with an AK-47 rifle inside the Walmart. He surrendered to police who confronted him outside the store.
In a racist manifesto posted on the now-defunct 8chan message board that was used by extremists, Crusius is accused of having said the Walmart massacre was a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
In 2020 Crusius pleaded not guilty to 90 federal hate crime charges. Court proceedings were delayed while prosecutors weighed whether to pursue the death penalty.
In a statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, FBI Director Chris Wray reiterated earlier warnings about the threat of domestic extremism in the U.S.
“The greatest terrorism threat to our Homeland is posed by lone actors or small cells who typically radicalize to violence online and look to attack soft targets with easily accessible weapons,” Wray testified. “We see these threats manifested within both Domestic Violent Extremists and Homegrown Violent Extremists, two distinct threats, both of which are located primarily in the United States and typically radicalize and mobilize to violence on their own.”
Wray went on to say, “Domestic and Homegrown Violent Extremists are often motivated and inspired by a mix of social or political, ideological, and personal grievances against their targets, and more recently have focused on accessible targets to include civilians, law enforcement and the military, symbols or members of the U.S. Government, houses of worship, retail locations, and mass public gatherings.”
In 2020, Crusius’ lawyers argued that he should not face execution if convicted because had been diagnosed with severe, lifelong neurological and mental disabilities.