North Texas man pleads guilty to hate crimes in fatal shooting at Muslim-owned business

A Dallas man pleaded guilty to hate crimes in a 2015 shooting at a car shop in which he targeted Muslims, killing one person and attempting to kill four others, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

Anthony Paz Torres, 38, pleaded guilty Thursday to five federal hate crime counts in the shooting at Omar’s Wheels and Tires in Dallas on Dec. 24, 2015.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of using a firearm to commit murder.

The shooting happened just days after Torres had gone to the car shop, made anti-Muslim statements, and said that he would come back, according to the release.

When he returned to the shop a few days later, Torres asked customers if they were Muslim and opened fire on the customers and employees, the Justice Department said.

A bystander who was sitting in a car at the business, 25-year-old Enrique Garcia-Mendoza, was killed in the shooting.

“Acts of Islamophobic-violence that cause death and injury have no place in our country and run contrary to our values as Americans,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in the release. “This defendant is being held accountable for a violent and deadly hate-fueled shooting spree targeting innocent Muslim Americans.”

Torres’ sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 24. He faces up to 37 years in prison, with credit for time served.

“Religious hatred, including anti-Muslim bigotry, has no place in America,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton. “And when that bigotry crosses the line into violence, we will not hesitate to hold perpetrators to account.”

The Dallas Police Department and Dallas Criminal District Attorney’s Office assisted the FBI’s Dallas Field Office in the investigation.

“The defendant’s deliberate targeting of a Muslim-owned business resulted in not only the death of one person, but also caused physical and emotional harm to everyone present that day,” said Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough of the FBI Dallas Field Office. “Hate crimes are not only an attack on the victim, but they are also meant to threaten and intimidate an entire community.”

Trial Attorney Rebekah J. Bailey of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Dana of the Northern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.