People view a temporary memorial honoring the victims of a racist shooting in El Paso

People view a temporary memorial on August 2, 2020, honoring the victims of a racist shooting targeting Latinos at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas a year earlier.

(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Family Members Condemn Racist El Paso Gunman as Judge Hands Down 90 Life Sentences

"My message to the shooter was that he wanted to take down Mexicans. He wanted to get rid of the Hispanic people here in El Paso," said the niece of one of the victims. "We're still here and we're not going anywhere."

The self-described white nationalist who massacred 23 people and injured 22 others with an AK-47-style rifle in El Paso, Texas in 2019 was sentenced to 90 consecutive life sentences on Friday, following two days of courtroom statements in which survivors and family members of those who were killed in the attack directly addressed the gunman's racist views.

Addressing Patrick Crusius, the survivors condemned the shooter as a "monster" and a "coward" and spoke about the lasting trauma he inflicted on them when he entered a Walmart armed with the gun and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, intent on killing Latino people in the border city.

Stephanie Melendez, whose father, David Johnson, was killed as he saved his wife and nine-year-old granddaughter from the gunfire by shielding them under a checkout counter, talked about the attack's affect on her daughter Kaitlyn.

"You showed her evil, you showed her monsters do exist outside of storybooks," Melendez told Crusius. "I want you to remember my daughter's cries. I want them to haunt you."

Alfredo Hernandez, whose sister Maribel was killed, also said he no longer has a sense of security when he is in public places and told Crusius he is always "on the lookout for other psychos like you."

Amaris Vega, whose aunt, Teresa Sanchez, was killed by Crusius, told KFOX14 on Thursday that he "failed" to accomplish the goal he put forward in the racist manifesto that he posted online before the attack, in which he said he wanted to address the "Hispanic invasion of Texas."

"My message to the shooter was that he wanted to take down Mexicans. He wanted to get rid of the Hispanic people here in El Paso. But he didn't do that," Vega said. "He didn't win. We're still here and we're not going anywhere."

Echoing the rhetoric of numerous Republican politicians—including then-President Donald Trump—about a so-called "invasion" by immigrants and asylum-seekers from Central America, Crusius wrote that he was "defending [his] country from cultural and ethnic replacement" and said the people shopping at Walmart on August 3, 2019 were "the instigators."

Since the shooting, the GOP's claims that asylum-seekers are "invading" the U.S. have continued, with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp using the term in campaign ads last year. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has also persisted in accusing immigrants of an "invasion."

Crusius' sentencing on Friday, and the anguish and grief expressed by the family members of those he killed, served as a reminder that "hateful rhetoric against our communities [has] real consequences," said Erika Andiola, communications director for the Young Center, which advocates for children in the immigration system.

Margaret Juarez, whose father was killed and whose mother survived the attack with injuries, directly addressed Crusius' manifesto and his claim that Hispanic immigrants instigated the shooting.

"Native Americans and Mexicans were already here before your American settler homies rolled in," Juarez said in the courtroom. "Think about that when you say you're defending your country."

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