‘You failed and we are still here.’ Walmart victims' relatives chastise gunman at sentencing hearing
Victim impact statements continued Thursday for relatives of the people murdered or injured in the 2019 Walmart shooting in El Paso. Amid their anger, sadness and trauma, some who spoke found the will to chastise the shooter for his ignorance and extremism.
Twenty-three people were killed and nearly two-dozen more wounded in the attack before Crusius was arrested. Since then, he’s been sitting in an El Paso jail and now faces up to 90 consecutive life sentences in federal prison for gun and hate crime charges.
The courtroom was filled with anger, anguish and tears as relatives of some of the victims told Crusius how their lives were changed the day he decided to give in to extremist beliefs and terrorize their families. But some also sought to teach him a lesson about Texas history and revel in the fact that — while he’s likely spending the rest of his life behind bars — they’ll be able to continue with their lives and honor the memories of their lost loved ones.
“In your pathetic, sorry manifesto you stated that you wanted to save Texas,” said Amaris Vega, whose aunt Teresa Sanchez was killed and whose mom and grandmother were both critically injured. “Guess what? You didn’t. You failed and we are still here, and we are not going anywhere.”
She added that the joke is on him.
“For four years you have been stuck in a city full of Hispanics,” she said. “Let that sink in.”
Margaret Juarez called Crusius a misinformed coward. Her father, Luis Alfredo Juarez, was killed in the shooting and her mother was shot but survived.
“You think that this is your country that needs protecting from Hispanic invasions?” she said. “Native Americans and Mexicans were already in Texas. We were already here, dude. Think about that when you think it’s your country you’re protecting.”
She later warned Crusius about the people he’d encounter in federal prison, where she said he’d be in the minority.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet. Talk about being outnumbered,” she said. “You thought you were protecting your country, only to end up in a place full of Black and brown people. Good luck with that.”
She concluded her statement by reminding the gunman he’ll probably never see the light of day outside of a correctional facility for as long as he’s alive.
“We’re going to go enjoy the sunshine and maybe some good food and some margaritas later,” she said.
When Francisco Rodriguez spoke, he stood at the podium donning a t-shirt with the image of his son, 15-year-old Javier Amir Rodriguez, on its front. Javier Rodriguez was the youngest victim and had dreams of becoming a U.S. Border Patrol agent, which his father said was ironic given the gunman’s motives. Rodriguez said he was out of town when the shooting happened and hadn’t seen his son for a month when he received the horrific news.
“July 4, 2019 was the last time I saw my son alive. August 6 was the last time I saw” his body, he said. “My 15-year-old son was dead because of you.”
Crusius looked away several times while Rodriguez spoke, prompting the grieving father to stop in mid-sentence.
“Have the balls to look at me. Have the balls to look at my son,” he said.
Near the end of his statement, Rodriguez touched a medallion tied to a chain around his neck. He told the shooter it contained some of his son’s ashes.
“I won’t be able to see my son for the rest of my life,” he said. “That’s all I got left.”
Impact statements concluded Thursday afternoon and U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama will hand down Crusius’ sentence Friday. The gunman is also facing state capital murder charges and prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty. The timeline on that case isn’t clear.
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