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Maricopa County’s top prosecutor lays out what’s ahead in mass shooter case

Rene Aguilar and Jackie Flores pray at a makeshift memorial for the victims of Saturday's mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

PHOENIX – Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said prosecutors who will be building a case against a young man accused of gunning down dozens of people at a Texas store will need the investigation to be thorough but as quick as possible.

“Sometimes those interests can be competing because you have to build a constitutionally sound case,” Montgomery told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday.

Patrick Crusius, 21, is suspected of opening fire in a crowded El Paso, Texas, discount chain store on Saturday. The death toll reached 22 and another 27 were injured.

The same weekend, nine people in Dayton, Ohio, were killed by a gunman who later also died, authorities said.

“While everybody thinks this would be open and shut,” Montgomery said, “this makes it even more incumbent upon prosecutors and law enforcement to dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T.’

Mexico’s government said it considered the shooting an act of terrorism and would be active in the investigation. Federal authorities planned to pursue domestic terrorism and El Paso County prosecutors will argue for the death penalty.

“Everybody who does have an interest needs to sit down and talk through which venue is the best that can achieve the greatest amount of justice in the shortest amount of time with the best outcome,” Montgomery said.

“There are going to be conversations.”

President Donald Trump directed on Monday the Department of Justice to seek and prioritize the enforcement of the death penalty in cases of hate crimes and mass shootings.

He also said he wanted legislation providing “strong background checks” for gun users.

“I don’t know to what extent a thorough background check might have stopped any of it,” Montgomery said.

“What happened in Gilroy (four people were killed at a California festival), El Paso, Dayton … all of these reflects acts of evil. There is no silver bullet, there is no one simple solution to this,” Montgomery said of preventing mass shootings.

“It is a societal issue, it involves multiple levels of actors.”

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