NiseriN/iStock(EL PASO, Texas) — Under heavy guard and restrained by shackles, the alleged gunman in a mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart store that left 22 people dead made his first federal court appearance on Wednesday to face multiple hate-crime charges stemming from the August 2019 massacre.
Patrick Crusius, 21, appeared in U.S. District Court in El Paso after Magistrate Miguel Torres rejected a request from his attorneys that he be allowed to enter the courtroom unrestrained.
In his ruling, Torres wrote that Crusius posed a security risk based on the “extremely violent offenses” he is charged with.
“The Court finds it appropriate that the Defendant be restrained at his initial appearance … using the customary restraints used by the United States Marshals under the circumstances,” wrote Torres in an order signed about an hour before Crusius’ court appearance, according to El Paso ABC affiliate KVIA .
Around a dozen victims who survived the attack attended the hearing, some breaking into tears as they watched Crusius, according to KVIA.
Crusius’ two court-appointed attorneys, David Lane and Rebecca Hudsmith, waived the reading of the charges against him and his right to a detention hearing.
“We are going to do everything in our power to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America,” Lane told reporters outside the courtroom.
Already facing state capital murder charges, Crusius was indicted last week on 90 federal charges, including 22 counts of committing a hate crime resulting in death, 22 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder, 23 counts of a hate crime involving an attempt to kill and 23 counts of use of a firearm during a crime.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said he will decide whether to pursue the death penalty after consulting with the victims’ families.
Crusius did not enter a plea and remained silent throughout Wednesday’s hearing.
He is accused of being the sole gunman to carry out the Aug. 3, 2019, killing rampage that federal authorities investigated as an act of “domestic terrorism,” meaning the suspect was allegedly intent on “coercing and intimidating a civilian population,” officials said.
Crusius allegedly told investigators following his arrest that he set out to kill as many Mexicans as he could after driving from his home in Allen, Texas, about 650 miles east of El Paso, armed with an AK-47 style semi-automatic rifle and 1,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition, officials said.
During the investigation of the massacre, investigators discovered a document titled “The Inconvenient Truth” allegedly written by Crusius and posted online, in which he purportedly discussed his hate for immigrants and Mexicans, and said his motive for the attack was to defend the United States from an invasion, according to the federal indictment.
Law enforcement officials told ABC News that Crusius cased the Walmart, going inside without any weapons, apparently to size up the clientele inside the store, which is about 5 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
After seeing the 1,000 to 3,000 people that police estimate were inside at the time, Crusius exited the store and allegedly armed himself, officials said. He returned wearing protective ear muffs, safety glasses and wielding the high-powered rifle, according to video surveillance of him inside the store.
Police officials said Crusius allegedly started firing indiscriminately at victims, many of whom were doing back-to-school shopping, before he even walked through the front door.
The victims killed ranged in age from 15 to 90. More than two dozen people were injured in the rampage.
Eight of the 22 people killed were Mexican nationals and nine additional Mexicans were among those wounded, officials said.
Weeks before the shooting, Crusius’ mother contacted police to express concern over her son owning an assault rifle due to his age, maturity level and lack of experience, the family’s attorneys, Chris Ayres and R. Jack Ayres, told ABC News in August.
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