NEW YORK – After a gunman who killed 23 people in a racially motivated attack at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, was sentenced to 90 consecutive life sentences on July 7, Bishop Mark Seitz said the outcome “is a moment to reflect upon the profound impact this tragedy has had on our community.”
Patrick Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty earlier this year to dozens of federal hate crime and firearms charges, which is what the sentence stems from. Crusius has yet to be tried on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty. A trial date has not been set.
“Our hearts remain broken as we acknowledge the pain and suffering endured by the twenty-three persons lost to us, the survivors, their families and the entire El Paso community,” Seitz told Crux in a statement.
“The sentencing of the shooter to 90 consecutive life sentences assures us that he will never be in a position to bring such harm upon anyone again,” Seitz continued. “Our prayer is that the victims and their loved ones will be able to find a peace, impossible without God’s grace, that comes only from a willingness to ‘forgive those who have trespassed against us’.”
Crusius, who is white, targeted Hispanics in the shooting, where in addition to the 23 who were killed another 22 people were injured. Police said Crusius drove hundreds of miles from his home in Allen, Texas, specifically to target the Hispanic community with an AK-47-style rifle. Ahead of the attack, he published a manifesto online denouncing the Hispanic “invasion” of Texas.
Seitz said he hopes the July 7 decision brings “some closure” to the victims and their families, and called for Catholics to remain vigilant in standing against hatred, violence and racism.
“It is my hope that the conclusion of this federal legal process brings some closure to the victims and their families,” Seitz said. “I offer my own continued support and accompaniment to all the survivors.”
“And let us all remain vigilant in addressing the root causes of hatred, violence and racism,” Seitz added. “May we honor the memory of those who have died by committing ourselves to the pursuit of dialogue, peace, and work for justice.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said he is hopeful the “sentence brings a sense of justice.”
“No one in this country should have to live in fear of hate-fueled violence – that they will be targeted because of what they look like or where they are from,” Garland said in a statement. “We are grateful to the victims and their family members who have spent the last three days bravely sharing the devastation and pain they endured because of Crusius’s horrendous crimes.”
El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks said July 7 that his intention is still to seek the death penalty in the case, though he acknowledged that the decision ultimately lies with the jury.
“I am committed to seeking justice for the people of this community,” Hicks said.
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