EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The El Paso County District Attorney’s Office is getting a $3 million state grant to prosecute alleged Walmart mass shooter Patrick Crusius. The money brokered through Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Office will allow El Paso prosecutors to prepare for a possible trial change of venue.
“I want to assure the community that we have every intention of prosecuting this case here in El Paso. However, legal technicalities happen, so we always have to be prepared in the event we have to travel out of town.” El Paso County District Attorney Yvonne Rosales said in a news conference.
The governor’s office is giving Rosales leeway on how to spend the $3 million. The DA anticipates some will be invested in equipment – computer hard drives, for starters, to electronically preserve evidence – and to bring in expert witnesses from out of town. The county had previously earmarked $500,000 for the prosecution.
Rosales emphasized the state funds will ease local taxpayers’ burden on a case that shocked the community and left families on both sides of the Rio Grande grieving.
Crusius on Aug. 3, 2019, allegedly drove from North Texas to El Paso with an assault rifle, went into the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall and started shooting. Twenty-three people died and 23 others survived gunshots. Authorities believed he posted a racist manifesto online, railing against an influx of Hispanics into the United States.
In the end, the dead and injured reflected the diversity of El Paso: whites, Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican citizens and even one originally from Germany who discovered Juarez, Mexico, while he was stationed in Fort Bliss.
Crusius has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorneys have told reporters they need time to prepare a defense, so they won’t be ready to go to trial until 2025 at the earliest. The suspect faces state capital murder charges and separate federal charges that include hate crimes.
Rosales said 2025 is too long a wait.
“I’m anticipating sometime at the end of this year or possibly at the beginning of next year,” she said. “Justice needs to be served in this case and the victims and families need to have resolution as soon as possible.”
The DA admits she has fielded numerous questions as to when Crusius will be brought to trial. She emphasized that is up to the judge, and that judges and prosecutors all over Texas are dealing with a backlog of cases dating back to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary closing of courtrooms.
“We’re trying to deal with the backlog caused by the pandemic. What all judges are trying to in all prudence is address the murder cases, sex assault of children cases, intoxicated manslaughter cases first,” Rosales said. “The judge of the 409th is proceeding all those cases first, eliminate the backlog of jury trials so we can get to Walmart and focus on that particular case.”
Judge Sam Medrano heads the 409th District Court.
When asked if her prosecutors intend to ask for the death penalty, she said that’s what the families of the victims want. But she warned the process will be a lengthy one due to the automatic appeals process in death penalty cases.
“We feel the members of this community deserve the opportunity to impose and pass judgement on this case and any kind of punishment they feel is acceptable,” she said. “But a good attorney is always prepared for the alternative, that’s why we are prepared for a change of venue.”