Beto O’Rourke Opposes Death Penalty for Alleged El Paso Mass Shooter

August 20, 2019 Updated: August 20, 2019

Beto O’Rourke said that he doesn’t support executing the alleged El Paso mass shooter.

Patrick Crusius, 21, allegedly killed 22 people in Walmart on Aug. 3.

O’Rourke, a former Texas representative and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told reporters on Aug. 19: “I don’t support the death penalty. I don’t know that taking another life will prevent the taking of lives going forward.”

“I understand that some people feel differently, and it’s hard to argue with them after seeing the faces of the lives lost. It’s hard to argue with those in El Paso who feel that way, when someone came in and killed 22 human beings in our community,” he added. “But at the end of the day, that’s my belief—but I understand those who feel differently about it.”

O’Rourke has said before that capital punishment should be abolished altogether—a common position in the Democratic field, with 17 other candidates holding similar views. Among them are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Only one Democrat has said the death penalty should be kept at all, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, while five candidates have not made clear what they think.

O’Rourke has changed his stance on the death penalty. In May 2017, as a U.S. Congressman, he voted for a bill that expanded aggravating factors that would open up the possibility of executing criminals, including murdering a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other first responders.

O’Rourke in March said he regretted voting for the bill, which was not taken up by the Senate. “That was a poor decision on my part. I’ve never supported the death penalty,” O’Rourke told the Huffington Post.

“I think attacking a police officer should be an aggravating factor, but I don’t think that should contribute to taking someone else’s life. And so that was a mistake on my part, and if I could have that vote again, I would not vote for it,” he said.

He also told Iowa Radio he didn’t think the death penalty was moral and if he were elected president he would suspend using it for federal crimes.

“It’s not an equitable, fair, just system right now—the guarantees and safeguards against wrongful prosecution, the disproportionate number of people of color who comprise our criminal justice system,” O’Rourke said. “And on moral grounds, I oppose the death penalty.”

The administration of Republican President Donald Trump announced recently it would resume federal executions, starting with five convicted murderers.

There had been a pause of nearly 20 years.

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the president,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

“Under administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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