LOS ANGELES – A Texas white nationalist who murdered 23 people and injured nearly two dozen more during a mass shooting in 2019 at a Walmart in El Paso pleaded guilty Wednesday to 90 criminal counts, including 45 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The confessed shooter admitted that he targeted the Latino community and chose to carry out the massacre in El Paso because it was a border city. Under a plea agreement, the white nationalist will be sentenced to 90 consecutive life terms.

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) issued the following statement following the court proceeding:

“MALDEF welcomes the plea and agreed sentence revealed in federal court yesterday. The race-motivated mass murder in El Paso in August 2019 was a traumatic shock to the entire Latino community nationwide, with devastating effects on the local community and, of course, on the families of the 45 victims who were targeted, and in 23 cases killed, solely because of their Latino background. Hate crime against Latinos, and this particular crime, have obviously been sparked and encouraged by the irresponsible rhetoric of political leaders like Donald Trump, president at the time of these murders.

“As public attention shifted from the 45 victims in El Paso toward other allied communities targeted for hate crime under Trump’s disastrous leadership during the pandemic, the diseased minds of some white nationalists may have shifted to Latinos as an ‘easier’ target. The charges and sentence in this case should demonstrate that Latinos should and will be protected from hate-motivated violence.

“The simple fact is that the emerging, blatantly racist ‘replacement theory’ focuses specifically on the Latino community, which has been the largest racial/ethnic minority community in the United States for 20 years, and which accounted for over half of the nation’s population growth in the last decade. Those who fail to repudiate clearly and directly the pernicious ‘replacement theory’ align themselves with the racist violence perpetrated in El Paso.”