Authorities on Sunday said they were investigating the weekend shooting at a shopping center in El Paso, Texas, as a possible hate crime and that they were in the early stages of linking the accused gunman to an anti-immigrant screed that surfaced online shortly before the massacre.Patrick Wood Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas, was booked into the El Paso County Jail early Sunday on capital murder charges.
He is accused of opening fire at a shopping area on Saturday, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens of others. State authorities said they plan to pursue the death penalty.
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said labeling the incident a hate crime would stem from directly attributing to Mr. Crusius the so-called “manifesto,” in which the author says a planned massacre was a response to an “invasion” of Hispanics into Texas.
“We’re going down that road. [It’s] beginning to look more solidly like that is the case,” Chief Allen said Sunday.
Federal authorities are seriously considering bringing hate crime charges against Mr. Crusius and are treating the matter as a domestic terrorism case, said John Bash, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas.
“We’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is deliver swift and certain justice,” said Mr. Bash, who noted that he has been in “close consultation” with U.S. Attorney General William Barr on the matter.
A major focus of the investigation is the document posted to the online forum 8Chan shortly before the shooting took place that refers to Hispanics potentially taking over Texas and turning the state Democratic.
It expresses concern about supposed negative effects that immigration and automation have on the U.S. and says “race mixing” is unnecessary and “selfish.” It also criticizes Republicans for being beholden to corporate interests.
A Twitter account that appeared to be linked to Mr. Crusius offered praise for President Trump and his efforts to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
But the author of the document said his ideology hasn’t changed for several years and that his views on immigration and automation predate Mr. Trump’s presidency. The writer predicted the media would likely label him a white supremacist and blame Mr. Trump’s rhetoric anyway, and said the media were “infamous for fake news.”
Mr. Crusius’ hometown of Allen is a Dallas suburb more than 600 miles from the border city of El Paso, which has figured prominently in the immigration debate. The vast majority of its population of about 680,000 is Hispanic, and the city has an even larger sister, Ciudad Juarez, on the other side of the Rio Grande in Mexico.
“The kind of place Donald Trump has warned the rest of America about, talking about invasions and caravans and Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals despite the fact that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States of America today and has been for the last 20 years,” Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman who hails from El Paso, said on MSNBC.
Just hours after the attack in El Paso, a gunman killed at least nine people and injured dozens of others at a nightclub area in Dayton, Ohio. Based on his social media accounts, gunman Connor Betts did not have an obvious political motive.
Democrats said the El Paso shooting was reflective of, if not a direct result of, a failure on the part of Mr. Trump to name and confront a rising tide of white nationalist violence in the U.S.
In the past year, the Justice Department has brought charges in several high-profile domestic terrorism cases.
The cases include charging four California white supremacists with inciting violence at a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a Coast Guard lieutenant who officials said was plotting to kill Democrats and two Supreme Court justices, and three Midwestern men accused of plotting to blow up a Kansas apartment complex because it housed a mosque.
The department brought 44 charges against Robert Bowers, who is accused of killing 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray in July told a Senate panel that the bureau has seen an increase in domestic terrorism arrests, most of which have been motivated by white supremacy.
Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Wray said the FBI has recorded about 100 domestic terrorism arrests in the previous nine months. However, the number of arrests related to white supremacy is smaller, he told lawmakers.
“We take domestic terrorism or hate crime — regardless of ideology — extremely seriously, I can assure you, and we are aggressively pursuing it using both counterterrorism resources and criminal investigative resources and partnering closely with our state and local partners,” Mr. Wray said.
In May, the FBI’s top counterterrorism official, Michael McGarrity, told a House committee that the bureau was investigating 850 potential domestic terrorism cases. He said about 40% of those cases involved racially motivated attacks, most of them by white supremacists.
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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