Survivors of a 2019 massacre at a Texas Walmart that killed 23 people and wounded 22 others addressed the white nationalist shooter directly at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, including one young victim who reportedly told him, "I want you dead."
The sentencing hearing before US District Judge David Guaderrama in El Paso could last several days given that every witness, wounded survivor and relative of the dead will be afforded the chance to offer an impact statement.
The shooter, Patrick Crusius, 24, who admitted to targeting Hispanics, will also be allowed to address the court. He pleaded guilty in February to 90 counts including 23 counts of hate crime resulting in death under a plea agreement in which he agreed to 90 consecutive life sentences to avoid the federal death penalty.
Even with that agreement, the judge must conduct a hearing before sentencing. The shooter also faces prosecution from the state of Texas which could result in the death penalty.
Gasps and cries could be heard from the packed gallery as Crusius entered the courtroom, according to multiple media reports from journalists witnessing the hearing.
The shooter, wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, glasses and shaggy long hair, showed no emotion and avoided looking at victims, reporters said.
Victims expressed both a desire for retribution and allowed for the chance of divine forgiveness for the killer.
Genesis Davila, who was 12 years old and present while her soccer coach was killed and her mother and father were injured, looked directly at Crusius and told him, "I want you dead," KVIA television reported.
Statements from the victims
"I hate you so much. Hell has a special place for you," Davila said.
Another victim called him an "evil parasite," the Dallas Morning News reported.
"You are nothing without your weapon," said Thomas Hoffman, who lost his father, Alexander Hoffman. Raul Moya, the brother of a victim, was more charitable, according to KVIA, reading from a statement that said, "I've tried so bad to forgive what you've done, it's been hard. I hope God forgives you for what you've done."
Just before the massacre, which was carried out with a Romanian derivative of the AK-47 and hollow-point ammunition, the shooter posted on the internet a manifesto that declared, "This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas."
The shooter's attorney, Joe Spencer, said he could not comment until after sentencing. At the time of the guilty plea in February, Spencer told reporters, "There are no winners in this case. He's going to be serving 90 consecutive life sentences."