suspect in El Paso Mass Shootings defense team appeals for open minds

EL PASO, Texas (AP) – A 21-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to capital murder in the fatal shooting of 22 people at a West Texas Walmart.

Patrick Crusius entered the plea Thursday during his first appearance before a trial judge in El Paso. Police have said Crusius confessed to targeting Mexicans in the Aug. 3 attack in the largely Latino border city.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for Crusius.

Most of those killed in the shooting had Hispanic last names and eight were Mexican nationals. The Department of Justice has called it an act of domestic terrorism.

Some two-dozen people were injured in the attack. Hospital officials say two of them remain hospitalized.

The attack came hours before another mass shooting that killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio.

Attorneys for the man charged with capital murder in the mass shootings at an El Paso Walmart store appealed to the public to keep an open mind about their client.

Mark Stevens of San Antonio is lead defense attorney for Patrick Crusius. He told reporters after Crusius entered a not-guilty plea Thursday in state district court in El Paso that “there are two sides to this story” and that the defense team intends to contrast those stories in court.

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if they obtain a capital murder conviction. Assistant defense attorney Joe Spencer of El Paso says he and Stevens “are morally opposed to the death penalty.” He added that the El Paso community needs closure and healing, “and the quickest way to get closure and healing is not through seeking the death penalty.”