EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A man who drew worldwide sympathy and support after his wife was killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso will be laid to rest Friday.
Antonio Basco died Aug. 14, just over two years after his wife, Margie Reckard, was fatally shot along with 22 other people by a lone gunman who authorities say targeted Latinos in an attack that stunned the U.S. and Mexico.
Reckard’s August 2019 funeral drew thousands of people from as far away as California, after Basco announced that he was alone with almost no family left and invited the world to join him in remembering his companion of 22 years. Few in attendance had ever met Reckard.
Basco — a wiry, weathered man in his early 60s — embraced one visitor after another with open arms. Flowers poured in, and an SUV was donated to Basco, who made a modest living at washing cars and other odd jobs.
Adria Gonzalez, an El Paso native who was inside the Walmart during the Aug. 3, 2019 attack, said she saw Basco deteriorate mentally and physically in the months after the funeral, amid struggles with alcohol consumption.
Basco was arrested and jailed in late-2019 for driving under the influence.
“He said he missed his wife, and he wasn’t the same,” Gonzalez said.
No cause of death has been listed by the funeral home.
Basco lived to see the dedication of a memorial to the 2019 shooting victims — a plaque and metal tower evoking a candle that stands outside store where the attack occurred.
The state’s capital murder case against Patrick Wood Crusius is pending trial in the mass shooting that claimed Reckard’s life. Crusius also has been charged in federal court with more than 90 counts under federal hate-crime and firearms laws.
The shooting happened on a busy, weekend day at a Walmart that is typically popular with shoppers from Mexico and the U.S.
Authorities say Crusius aimed to scare Latinos into leaving the United States, driving from his home near Dallas to target Mexicans after posting a racist screed online. Crusius has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers said their client has been diagnosed mental disabilities.
Gonzalez fears consciousness about the shooting, its racist intent and traumatic impact on witnesses has faded amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We forgot that 23 lives were gone, completely,” she said. “There hasn’t been anything fixed.”
This story was updated to correct the spelling of Adria Gonzalez’s first name.
Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed from Dallas.