By JULIO CESAR-CHAVEZ
EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – A Texas man accused of deliberately targeting people of Mexican heritage in a shooting rampage that killed 22 at a Walmart store in El Paso last year made his first court appearance on Wednesday for new federal hate crime charges.
Patrick Crusius, 21, was charged last week with 90 counts of hate crimes. He appeared before Judge Miguel Torres wearing a suit but in shackles, and was informed of his rights by the magistrate. No plea was entered and the defendant did not speak during the hearing.
Crusius’ court-appointed lawyers in the federal trial – David Lane and Rebecca Hudsmith – declined to comment after the hearing.
The defendant is already facing a separate capital murder trial in state court. He has pled not guilty.
Crusius was charged by the Justice Department last week with the hate crimes.
He is accused of driving 11 hours to El Paso from his hometown of Allen, near Dallas, on Aug. 3 last year, and firing at shoppers with an AK-47 rifle inside the Walmart store. He surrendered to officers who confronted him outside.
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.
In a manifesto prosecutors say was posted online by Crusius on 8chan, a now-defunct message board often used by extremists, the accused shooter said his Walmart attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
(Reporting by Julio Cesar-Chavez in El Paso, Texas; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Bernadette Baum)