Nearly six months after a gunman slaughtered 22 people inside a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, a federal grand jury has indicted 21-year-old white supremacist Patrick Crusius on 90 counts, including hate crimes charges.
Taking note of Crusius’ manifesto, the government alleges that Crusius killed the victims because of their actual or perceived national origin. Denver-based attorney David Lane will reportedly represent him in federal court. The suspected gunman was already facing state capital murder charges in connection with the Aug. 3 shooting. Crusius allegedly posted a four-page anti-immigrant manifesto before the attack and after his arrest told police that he’d been targeting Mexicans.
The shooting clearly meets the federal definition of domestic terrorism, and John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, previously said his office was treating it as an act of domestic terrorism. But there’s no federal criminal statute that broadly outlaws acts of domestic terrorism, which means that Crusius ― like the killers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; at the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; and at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh ― isn’t facing specific terrorism-related charges.
A group of FBI agents is urging Congress to pass a domestic terrorism statute, but the effort faces opposition from civil liberties organizations who worry that federal law enforcement would use such authority to improperly target members of disfavored political groups.
Crusius, who lived about 10 hours away from El Paso, allegedly ranted about the “Hispanic invasion of Texas” in his manifesto, mentioning the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that contends elites are trying to replace white people with nonwhite immigrants.
Victims of the El Paso shooting ranged from 15 to 90 years old and included a young couple who died protecting their two-month-old baby. The infant suffered a bullet graze.
The FBI saw a “significant” rise in white supremacist violence and a spike in domestic terrorism-related arrests in fiscal year 2019, though it’s not always clear based on the public charges that certain cases were domestic terrorism-related.
Last week, white supremacist Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson ― whom the federal government said was plotting a domestic terror attack ― was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison on gun charges.