The gunman who killed 23 people in a 2019 shooting at an El Paso Walmart appeared in federal court just after noon on Wednesday, showing little emotion as the sentencing phase of his trial opened.

Allen resident Patrick Crusius faces 90 consecutive life terms in prison without parole after allegedly entering the big-box retail store and shooting dozens of people with a semi-automatic rifle. He subsequently surrendered to a Texas state trooper to avoid an armed confrontation with police.

Some of the victims’ families were crying, reported NBC 9 KTSM. Other spectators were looking directly at Crusius.

“I watched the killer the whole time. He showed very little emotion whatsoever,” said former El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, who saw Crusius in the Albert Armendariz Sr. Federal Courthouse in El Paso on Wednesday, according to NBC 9.

The suspect, who attended Collin College and Plano Senior High School, agreed in February to plead guilty.

Federal prosecutors previously announced they would not seek the death penalty. However, the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office has said it will seek the death penalty. A trial date has not yet been set in state court.

“I still take it personally,” Margo told USA Today. “It was an attack on who we are as a community, and I will never forget that.”

U.S. District Judge David C. Guaderrama, who reviewed the pre-sentencing report, was presiding.

The deadly event in 2019 deeply disturbed residents in El Paso, which has been typically known as a relatively safe city — unlike Dallas, which saw a 23% spike in murders year over year in the first four months of 2023. No reliable crime statistics are currently available to the public beyond May 3, allegedly due to a purported ransomware attack against the City of Dallas’ computer servers.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Downtown Dallas has been enduring high rates of crime — outpacing Fort Worth’s downtown area by a wide margin — likely as a result of the city’s ongoing police shortage.

In an interview with the Dallas Observer, Dallas Police Association President Michael Mata said the city could use as many as 4,000 officers, a figure based on a City analysis that concluded “2.66 to 3.08 [officers] per 1,000 citizens” constitutes an effective staffing level for Dallas.

While Fort Worth has struggled to maintain its own police force, its downtown area is buttressed by a dedicated neighborhood unit and private security guards.