Federal authorities are treating the El Paso, Texas WalMart shooting as a case of domestic terrorism. According to The New York Times, the alleged shooter, who killed 20 people and wounded 26 more, will be charged with federal hate crime and firearm charges in connection with the massacre.
The accused, a 21-year-old man, was booked into El Paso County Jail on Sunday. He is facing a capital murder charge, and El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza said that he plans to seek the maximum sentence.
“We will seek the death penalty,” he said.
The suspected killer walked into an El Paso WalMart around 10:40 a.m. and opened fire on customers and employees in the store. Investigators suspect that the man wrote a white nationalist manifesto prior to heading to the WalMart. The manifesto was a lengthy, racist, anti-immigrant message outlining his vision of a country overrun by people of color, and was found on the 8Chan website, an online haven for people with extreme viewpoints.
The document was full of language frequently used by white nationalists, along with racist slurs. The author also blamed immigrants for taking away jobs from Americans.
“I’m probably going to die today,” the author reportedly wrote.
The alleged shooter was arrested on Saturday and the FBI has been investigating the Dallas area where the man is reportedly from.
According to CNN, U.S. Attorney John Bash said that the act “appears to be designed to intimidate a civilian population, to say the least. We’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is to deliver swift and certain justice.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbot is calling the shooting a “hate crime” after learning about the hate-filled screed.
“This is disgusting, intolerable. It’s not Texan,” Abbott said. “We are going to aggressively prosecute it both as capital murder, but also as a hate crime, which is what it appears to be, without having seen all the evidence yet.”
El Paso is one of the largest and safest cities on the U.S.-Mexico border. The area has been a focus for the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement.
Several Democrats have criticized Donald Trump’s language toward immigrants, saying that his repeated attacks on people of color have emboldened attacks of this nature. Presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke said that Trump’s language is harmful to the character of the country.
“He is a racist and he stokes racism in this country,” O’Rourke said. “It fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence.”
Two people, from two countries, speaking two languages—united, not divided, by our border. Together, we form a whole far greater than the sum of our parts: a community I’m so proud to call home. https://t.co/xMQEi9RAEM
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 4, 2019