The Texas man accused of deliberately targeting Mexicans in a shooting spree that killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart store pleaded not guilty on Thursday in his first court appearance, Reuters reported.
Patrick Crusius, 21, was indicted last month for capital murder and will face the death penalty if he is convicted, the El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza said. Twenty-six people were wounded during the shooting, Reuters notes.
Crusius strolled into the courtroom trailing his two lawyers. Dressed in a navy sports jacket, white shirt and gray slacks, he betrayed no emotion and only spoke twice, answering “yes, your honor” to Judge Sam Medrano when asked if his name was correct on the indictment, and “not guilty” when asked for his plea. He was in and out of the courtroom in about three minutes.
Security had been beefed up in and around the courthouse. Sheriff’s deputies set up metal detectors and X-ray machines to screen everyone entering the building. The courtroom seating 100 was packed.
The Texas killings were followed just 13 hours later by a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman wearing body armor and a mask killed nine people and wounded 27 others before he was shot dead by police.
The back-to-back massacres sparked a political outcry, with El Paso native and Democratic Party presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke demanding the mandatory confiscation of the assault-style rifles often used in mass shootings.