Federal authorities in the US are viewing the mass shooting at Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday as a case of domestic terrorism and will pursue hate crime and firearm charges, local reports say.
Capital murder charge was filed against the suspect Patrick Wood Crusius, 21, while El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza said his office would seek death penalty for him.
Crusius was arrested on Saturday after he walked into Walmart around 10.40am and started indiscriminately firing on shoppers and staff leaving 20 dead.
El Paso is not far from far from the US border with Mexico and the city is home to a large number of Hispanic immigrants. The shopping centre that houses Walmart is a big draw for them and it was crowded on Saturday.
Soon after the suspect’s arrest, police attention was drawn to a white nationalist manifesto allegedly written by him before the shooting.
In it, Crusius made remarks attacking immigrants and expressing sympathy to a white gunman charged with killing 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand this year.
The manifesto mentioned “the Hispanic invasion of Texas” as one of reasons for the attack.
El Paso police chief, Greg Allen, said the shooting has to be treated as a hate crime.
Attorney General William P. Barr said such crimes deserve maximum punishment the law allows.
If the manifesto was posted by Crusius himself, he could be charged with violation of hate crime laws.
In 2017 tweet, Crusius had tweeted, “#BuildTheWall is the best way that @POTUS has worked to secure our country so far!”
‘Building the wall’ referred to the proposed expansion of the US-Mexico barrier during Donald Trump’s presidency.
While Crusius supported Trump’s wall, the president condemned the El Paso mass shooting and called the suspect a coward.
On Sunday, he ordered flags flown at half-staff as a sign of respect for the victims of shootings this weekend in El Paso and
Dayton. America grieves and stands united with the people of El Paso and Dayton, Trump said.
On the separate investigations into the shootings, he said the FBI is coordinating with local authorities in Ohio and Texas.