A racist gunman came face to face Thursday with the families of the oldest and youngest people killed in his 2019 terror attack in El Paso.

“Look at him! Look at him!” Francisco Javier Rodriguez told Patrick Crusius as a photo of his 15-year-old son, Javier Amir Rodriguez, was put on courtroom monitors. The confessed mass killer refused to look.

“You don’t have the balls to look at him. You had the balls to shoot him,” Rodriguez said as he stared across the courtroom at the man who ended the lives of his son and 22 others at an El Paso Walmart on Aug. 3, 2019.

Octavio Ramiro Lizarde, in the wheelchair, was comforted on Aug. 18, 2019, when visiting a cross erected for his nephew, Javier Amir Rodriguez, at a makeshift memorial for the Walmart shooting victims near the store. Amir, 15, was the youngest person killed in the shooting, and his uncle was wounded. (Robert Moore/El Paso Matters)

More than 30 people gave victim impact statements Wednesday and Thursday at the sentencing hearing for Crusius, 24.

He will be formally sentenced on Friday by U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama. The gunman will receive 90 consecutive life terms in federal prison after pleading guilty in February to hate crimes and weapons charges. 

Related stories

Walmart shooting victims, families face mass killer at sentencing hearing

Racist mass killer formally sentenced to 90 life prison terms for El Paso carnage

The Justice Department decided this year not to seek the death penalty for Crusius on the federal charges. He also faces state capital murder charges that could bring a death sentence, but no trial date has been set.

Crusius drove 10 hours from his home in Allen, Texas, to El Paso because he wanted to kill Mexicans and Hispanics. In a screed he posted on the internet shortly before the killing, he said he wanted to “stop the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Republican politicians and conservative media figures continue to refer to migration as an invasion, despite criticism that such language risks encouraging attacks on Hispanics.

The victim impact statements Wednesday and Thursday came mostly from family members of people killed and injured by Crusius, and by some of those wounded in the attack. Most of the statements were made in person, but some were in written statements read by prosecutors.

Some of the speakers Thursday criticized the media, law enforcement and the judicial system as contributors to the plague of mass shootings in the country. 

Killer faces his victims’ families

Many of the speakers challenged Crusius directly. 

“Do you sleep good at night?” Dean Reckard asked Crusius, who killed his 63-year-old mother, Margie Reckard. He shook his head no.

When Reckard called Crusius a white supremacist, he shook his head no.

When challenged by Reckard to look at his mother’s photo on a monitor behind him, Crusius turned around and looked. At other times, he refused the request of family members to look at photos of their loved ones.

“Are you sorry for what you did?” Reckard demanded. Crusius nodded yes. Reckard wasn’t convinced.

“You haven’t showed any signs of remorse,” he said. 

Tony Basco, the widower of Margie Reckard, who was killed in the mass shooting, visits the spontaneous memorial near Walmart on August 21, 2019. Many El Pasoaons wore wristbands with messages such as “El Paso Strong” and “Life After Hate” as visual reminders of their grief and solidarity with victims. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters).

Coward was a word invoked time and again by speakers Thursday.

“You think you’re somebody important because of what you did? You’re not, you’re a coward,” said Rodriguez, whose son was the youngest of those killed in the Walmart attack. 

“Only a coward can kill innocent people. A racist, white supremacist coward,” said Margaret Juarez, the daughter of Luis Juarez, 90, the oldest person killed by Crusius.

Juarez mocked the white supremacist beliefs that Crusius, now 24, invoked in a manifesto he posted online just before the shooting. She said he must have gotten an inferior education in his hometown of Allen, Texas, near Dallas.

“You think this is your country that needs protection from a Hispanic invasion,” she said. “Native Americans and Mexicans were already here in Texas when your American homie settlers rolled in.”

Little room for forgiveness

Juarez’s 87-year-old mother, Martha, was shot and wounded by Crusius. She will soon undergo another surgery on her arm, where a steel rod was inserted to replace her shattered humerus.

“They were just old people trying to live out their lives. Until you arrived in town,” said Luis Juarez Jr., the Juarezes son.

“There is no forgiveness for this crime. It is unforgivable,” Luis Juarez Jr. said.

U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama is presiding over the federal sentencing of mass killer Patrick Crusius. (Nacho Garcia Jr./El Paso Matters)

Forgiveness was another word frequently invoked Wednesday and Thursday. Most who talked about forgiveness said they were unable to grant it to the man who shattered their lives. But a couple people said it was possible.

“My mother, Rosa Barron, asked me to tell you that she forgives you,” Isabel Piedra said in a letter read by a prosecutor. Barron was shot and wounded in the attack.

Maria Soto’s 77-year-old father, Juan de Dios Velazquez Chairez, was killed as he threw himself in front of his wife, Estela Nicolasa, as Crusius fired away.

“Today I’ve decided to forgive you, not because you deserve it, but because I don’t want anything that ties me to you,” Soto said in a statement read by a prosecutor.

But Iliana Rodriguez, stepmother of Francisco Amir Rodriguez, had a different sentiment for Crusius in a letter read by a prosecutor.

“May the devil receive you with all his love.”

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.