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Lawyer: Family Never Heard El Paso Shooting Suspect Express Racist Views

Associated Press
Youths comfort each other at the funeral of elementary school principal Elsa Mendoza, of one of the 22 people killed in a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

As funerals were held Thursday in Mexico for some of the country's citizens who died in the El Paso shooting, a lawyer for the suspected gunman's family said they never heard him express racist views.

Authorities believe Patrick Crusius, 21, wrote a racist, rambling screed that railed against mass immigration before opening fire last weekend at a Walmart. Crusius lived near Dallas, and El Paso police say he drove more than 10 hours to the largely Latino border city in Texas to carry out the shooting that killed 22 people and wounded about two dozen others. He's been charged with capital murder.

Chris Ayres, a Dallas-based attorney for Crusius' family, told The Associated Press in an email they never heard Crusius express the kind of racist and anti-immigrant views that he allegedly posted online.

"These views were never expressed to the family. Ever," Ayres wrote.

The lawyer did not address questions about how the weapon used in the attack was obtained. But he said Crusius "occasionally shot guns, as many do, with his dad."

A spokesman for the police department in the Dallas suburb where the suspect's family lives confirmed Thursday that the department had received a telephone call from a woman expressing concern about the legality of Crusius plan to buy an "AK" style rifle. Lawyers for the Crusius family say the call came from his mother.

The call came into the Allen Police Department on June 27, said Sgt. Jon Felty. "She was concerned about her son buying a weapon online or at a retail establishment," he said. Specifically, she asked if her son was old enough and what qualifications he would need. She was told that her son was old enough but that a background check would determine whether he was qualified to make the purchase, Felty said.

Crusius was 20 at the time the call was made. Under Texas law, 18 is the minimum age for buying a firearm from a licensed dealer, but 21 is the minimum age for handgun purchases. El Paso police have said Crusius purchased his rifle legally.

The caller never identified herself or her son, he said. "At no time did she express a concern for anything but the safety of her son." She was asked if her son might be suicidal or had shown recent behavior changes and said she had seen no changes, Felty said.

Mexican officials have said eight of the people killed in the shooting were Mexican nationals. They called the attack an act of terrorism against their citizens on U.S. soil.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke on Thursday crossed into Mexico for the funeral of one of the country's victims. O'Rourke, who was raised in El Paso and represented the city in Congress for six years, said after walking across the international bridge into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, that he was there "to remind the world that we are a binational community."

O'Rourke said the family that invited him to the funeral asked that he not identify the victim.

"I have a lot of pride in this community right now," he said. "We need to share that message right now because there's a lot of hatred, a lot of racism, a lot of violence being directed, a lot of terror being directed toward these communities right now."

O'Rourke was campaigning in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting, but since rushing home has become one of the biggest voices in a community coping with tragedy. O'Rourke has blamed President Donald Trump's rhetoric for spreading fear and hate, leading Trump to tweet that O'Rourke should "be quiet."

When Trump visited El Paso on Wednesday, his motorcade passed protesters holding "Racist Go Home" signs. Trump and the White House have forcefully disputed the idea that he bears some responsibility for the nation's divisions.

But at another funeral on Thursday for Elsa Mendoza, a Juárez elementary school principal killed in the El Paso attack, her brother couldn't help but draw a line between the killing of his sister and Trump's rhetoric.

"Let's see what we can do to stop this racism because it's not fair," Leopoldo Mendoza said. "This is purely a consequence of the president of the United States being racist toward Mexicans."