A Texas man accused of targeting Latinos during a 2019 massacre of 23 people at an El Paso Walmart store pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal hate crimes, according to local media reports.
Patrick Crusius changed his plea to guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas after federal prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty.
Crusius faces life in prison on the federal charges. He faces the death penalty on state charges.
A Texas judge last year put off a state trial in the case, saying that determining how to proceed would be affected by the decision from federal prosecutors on whether they would seek capital punishment. The Texas court issued a gag order that prevents prosecutors, defense lawyers, victims and family members from discussing the case.
Federal prosecutors say Crusius drove 11 hours to El Paso, on the U.S. border with Mexico, from his home in a suburb near Dallas, on Aug. 3, 2019, and fired at shoppers with an AK-47-style rifle inside the Walmart store. He surrendered to officers who confronted him nearby.
A racist manifesto that prosecutors say Crusius posted online on a now-defunct message board called 8chan, often used by extremists, said the attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Crusius pleaded not guilty in 2020 to 90 federal hate crime charges. Proceedings were delayed while prosecutors decided whether to pursue the death penalty.
In 2020, his lawyers argued that Crusius, then 21, had been diagnosed with severe, lifelong neurological and mental disabilities and should not face execution if convicted.