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El Paso Walmart shooter nods ‘yes’ when asked if he was sorry for the massacre

By Rosa Flores, Andi Babineau and Ray Sanchez, CNN

(CNN) — The man being sentenced on federal charges for fatally shooting 23 people and wounding 22 others at a Texas Walmart nodded “yes” Thursday when asked by the son of a victim if he was sorry for the massacre.

For a second emotional day, survivors and relatives of victims of the August 2019 slaughter in El Paso gave impact statements in Patrick Crusius’ sentencing hearing, coming face-to-face with the man who carried out one of the deadliest attacks targeting Latinos in modern US history.

Crusius, who pleaded guilty in February to 90 federal charges including hate crimes, is expected to be sentenced Friday.

During Thursday’s proceeding in a US courthouse in El Paso, Crusius engaged the relative of one victim, nodding answers to questions posed by Dean Reckard, who lost his mother, Margie.

When Reckard asked the shooter if he sleeps “good at night,” Crusius nodded “no” in response.

“You haven’t shown signs of remorse,” Reckard said. “You just wanted to be a copycat?”

Again, Crusius shook his head.

“Are you a White supremacist?” Reckard asked.

The shooter shook his head.

“Are you sorry for what you did?”

The shooter nodded “yes.”

Crusius, 24, was hearing firsthand about the anguish endured by the wounded survivors and relatives of the dead, one by one, as prosecutors seek to have him serve dozens of consecutive life sentences.

Christopher Morales, whose aunt died and whose mother and grandmother were shot but survived, addressed the court Thursday. Speaking to reporters later, he described Crusius as a “pathetic piece of trash” and lamented, “We’re never going to have closure.”

“It’s very sad that it’s taken this long and that the court system has allowed this to happen,” Morales said. “At this point, it’s a joke. We should have had justice a long time ago. It’s unacceptable. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”

Francisco Rodriguez, whose teenage son, Javier Amir Rodriguez, was the youngest victim, also addressed the court.

“He killed a 15-year-old. He didn’t even know him,” Rodriguez told reporters, wearing a T-shirt with an image of Javier. “I want (Crusius) to see that every birthday. I go to the cemetery and sing happy birthday to him.”

Crusius’ sentencing hearing began Wednesday. In court, his hands and feet have been shackled.

On Wednesday, Crusius answered, “No, sir,” when the judge asked him whether he would like to make a statement.

He displayed no emotion on Wednesday, occasionally nodding his head or fidgeting.

“You can roll your eyes if you want to. It doesn’t bother me,” Raymond Attaguile, whose brother-in-law David Johnson was killed while back-to-school shopping with his granddaughter, told Crusius, interrupting his remarks.

“You can roll your eyes; you can smile; you can smirk,” Johnson’s granddaughter, whose mother says her life was saved by Johnson during the shooting, told him.

Crusius shook his head both times, seemingly denying the actions.

He is expected to receive 90 consecutive life sentences in the federal case as part of a plea agreement, but still faces state charges for which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty to a capital murder charge of multiple people in the state case.

“Nothing that happens in the federal courthouse will affect what happens in the state courthouse,” El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks told reporters Thursday.

“We are still going to be prosecuting the Walmart shooter. We are still going to be seeking the death penalty on the Walmart shooter.”

On Friday, Crusius’ defense attorney will deliver an allocution on behalf of his client before the judge issues a formal sentence.

Attacker intent on killing immigrants and Mexicans

Over two days, Crusius was forced to hear the pain suffered by 36 people who delivered moving victim impact statements, in which survivors and loved ones of those killed testify about the shooting’s lasting fallout.

On Wednesday, victims’ sons, widows, brothers and daughters called him a “coward,” a “monster,” a “killer,” an “enemy,” a “parasite” and a “bastard”

Authorities said Crusius carried out the attack with the sole intent of killing immigrants and Mexicans in the West Texas border city.

“I hope God one day finds the heart to forgive you for what you’ve done,” Raul Loya, who is related to one of the victims, said Wednesday before crying.

“I still remember everything so clearly, even though I have tried to erase it from my memory,” a teenage soccer player identified in court as G.A. recounted on Wednesday.

“You killed my father in such a cowardly way,” Thomas Hoffman said on Wednesday. “He was not a racist like you.”

Hoffman lost his father, Alexander Hoffman, who was an engineer who migrated to Mexico from Germany in the 1980s and enjoyed listening to The Beatles and watching James Bond movies, his daughter Elis said in a statement through an attorney. She described her father as a “gentle giant with a big heart.”

“You’re an ignorant coward and you deserve to suffer in jail and then burn in hell,” Thomas Hoffman said. “You are an evil parasite that is nothing without a weapon.”

Hoffman held a photo of his father and looked directly at Crusius.

“See it. See it,” he said.

It was unclear whether Crusius looked at the photo, but he could be seen swallowing while Hoffman said, “You can see it.”

‘I want you to remember my voice’

Thirteen victims made impact statements Wednesday in person or through a representative, including a minor who was wearing an “El Paso Strong” T-shirt and had trouble speaking between sobs as she described the horror she survived inside the Walmart.

“He started shooting. I prayed to God,” she said.

“I used to be a happy, normal teenager until a coward chose to use violence against the innocent.”

She ended her statement by saying, “I’m no longer as happy as I used to be.”

A statement read by attorneys on behalf of Alfredo Hernandez, the brother of victim Maribel Hernandez, also referenced Crusius smirking in court, pointing to a pattern of him saying more with body language than with words.

Johnson’s granddaughter, referred to in court as K.M. because she is a minor, was accompanied during her statement by a therapy dog brought into the courtroom to comfort the victims.

Johnson’s daughter, Stephanie Melendez, also addressed Crusius.

“I want you to remember my voice. I speak for all the daughters who lost their fathers,” Melendez said. “In your act of hatred, you stole a good man from this world … he will be remembered but you will not.”

The charges include 23 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, 23 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence, 22 counts of hate crimes involving the attempt to kill, and 22 counts of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

The shooter initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea in February after federal prosecutors indicated they would not seek the death penalty. Instead, he will likely be sentenced to 90 consecutive life sentences, according to his plea agreement with the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.

The gunman then faces a possible death penalty in the state case.

Crusius will go into state custody later this fall, likely in October or November, following federal restitution proceedings in late September, according to the El Paso District Attorney’s Office.

His state trial is expected sometime in 2024 or 2025, according to Jennifer Cortes, a spokesperson for Hicks. The trial date will be set by Judge Sam Medrano of the 409th District Court in El Paso.

“We have waited four years to prosecute him. Waiting another couple of months is not going to change anything,” Hicks said Thursday. “I am committed to seeking justice for the people of this community.”

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CNN’s Ashley Killough and Holly Yan contributed to this report.

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