Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for a man accused of fatally shooting nearly two dozen people in a racist attack at a West Texas Walmart in 2019.
The U.S. Department of Justice disclosed the decision not to pursue capital punishment against Patrick Crusius in a one-sentence notice filed with the federal court in El Paso on Tuesday.
Crusius, now 24, is accused of targeting Mexicans during the mass shooting that left dozens wounded and killed 23 people. The Dallas-area native is charged with federal hate crimes and firearms violations, as well as capital murder in state court, and has pleaded not guilty.
Federal prosecutors did not explain in their court filing why won’t to seek the death penalty for Crusius, although he could still face potential execution if convicted in state court. The decision comes weeks after Jaime Esparza, the former district attorney in El Paso, took over as U.S. attorney for West Texas.
Esparza said when he was district attorney that he would pursue the death penalty in Crusius’ case. A spokesman for Esparza’s office referred questions to the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where another spokesman declined to comment. Lawyers for Cruisus did not immediately respond to requests for comment. His case is set for trial in federal court in January 2024.
Although the federal and state cases have progressed along parallel tracks, it is now unclear when Crusius might face trial on state charges.
The district attorney who had been leading the state case, Yvonne Rosales, resigned in November over accusations of incompetence involving hundreds of cases in El Paso and slowing down the case against Crusius. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last month appointed a new district attorney to “restore confidence” in the local criminal justice system.
Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.