El Paso shoot­ing sus­pect makes not guilty plea

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION - By Al­fredo Corchado

EL PASO, Texas — Qui­etly and with­out emo­tion, Wal­mart shoot­ing sus­pect Patrick Cru­sius pleaded not guilty Thurs­day to charges that he killed 22 peo­ple in El Paso.

Dozens of in­jured vic­tims and fam­ily mem­bers of those slain in the big­gest racially driven at­tack against Lati­nos in U.S. re­cent mem­ory watched on in si­lence. Some wore black for the brief court ap­pear­ance, which lasted fewer than three min­utes.

One of those in the court­room of about 140 peo­ple was Sylvia Saucedo. The sight of the con­fessed killer teared her up, she said. She re­mem­bers see­ing him walk­ing in­side Wal­mart, with her view of him from the knees down. She heard him shoot­ing. She crawled un­der a ta­ble and pulled her 91-year-old mother along­side her, took out her cell­phone and recorded the chaos that en­sued.

When she saw him walk into the court­room, Saucedo said, “Sud­denly I was back in­side Wal­mart. All the mem­o­ries came back to me. This was very hard, very painful.”

El Paso County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Jaime Es­parza has said he will seek the death penalty. Cru­sius, 21, had ear­lier con­fessed to po­lice. He ut­tered few words in a low tone dur­ing the hear­ing. The solemn wit­nesses in the cour­toom held their re­ac­tions in check as he said, “Not guilty.”

The plea leaves open the op­tion for an in­san­ity de­fense.

A grand jury in­dicted Cru­sius last month on first-de­gree felony charges pun­ish­able by life in prison with­out pa­role or the death penalty. U.S. At­tor­ney for West­ern Dis­trict of Texas John Bash has also said that his of­fice plans to in­dict Cru­sius on fed­eral hate crime, do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism and firearm charges.

Af­ter the hear­ing, Maria Elena Gor­don, an El Paso com­mu­nity ac­tivist, de­cried Cru­sius’ plea.

“To say to a judge you’re not guilty says that you’re a coward. We’re talk­ing about a white su­prem­a­cist, a do­mes­tic ter­ror­ist,” she said. “That’s un­ac­cept­able. Just the way he grabbed his as­sault weapon, he ought to have the co­jones to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for what he did. In­stead, he looked so cow­ardly in the court­room.”

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