HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Texas inmate was executed Wednesday for killing a Dallas-area convenience store clerk during a shooting spree that he said was in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Mark Stroman, 41, was lethally injected shortly after his final court appeal was rejected. He was pronounced dead at 8:53 p.m. at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit.
Stroman claimed the shooting spree that killed two men and injured a third targeted people of Middle Eastern descent, though all three victims were from South Asia. It was the death of 49-year-old Vasudev Patel that put Stroman on death row.
The lone survivor, Rais (Raze) Bhuiyan (Boo-yon), unsuccessfully sued to stop the execution, saying his Muslim beliefs told him to forgive Stroman. The courts denied his requests.
From the death chamber, Stroman asked for God's grace and said hate in the world had to stop.
"Even though I lay on this gurney, seconds away from my death, I am at total peace," he said. He later called himself "still a proud American, Texas loud, Texas proud."
"God bless America. God bless everyone," he added, then turned to the warden and said: "Let's do this damn thing."
The execution was briefly delayed as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals considered a final appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals earlier Wednesday.
In an unusual step, Bhuiyan had asked the courts to halt Stroman's execution. The native of Bangladesh and a former convenience store worker lost the sight in one of his eyes when Stroman shot him in the face.
He also said he wanted to spend time with the convict to learn more about why the shootings occurred.
"Killing him is not the solution," Bhuiyan said. "He's learning from his mistake. If he's given a chance, he's able to reach out to others and spread that message to others."
A federal district judge in Austin rejected the suit and Bhuiyan's request for an injunction on Wednesday afternoon. His lawyers appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice Antonin Scalia turned it down.
Stroman's lawyer, in a separate appeal to the Supreme Court, pointed to Bhuiyan's "significant surprise" and argued that attorneys during Stroman's trial and in earlier stages of his appeals were deficient for not illustrating "the path that led him to this violent frenzy."
Stroman's execution was the eighth this year in Texas. At least eight other inmates in the nation's busiest death penalty state have execution dates in the coming weeks.
Stroman was free on bond for a gun possession arrest when his shooting spree started. He had previous convictions for burglary, robbery, theft and credit card abuse, served at least two prison terms and was paroled twice. His juvenile record showed an armed robbery at age 12.
When police arrested him the day Patel was killed, they found the .44-caliber handgun used in the shooting. Stroman confessed, and court documents show he told authorities he belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. Prosecutors also say he told another jail inmate about the shootings and how automatic weapons police found in his car were intended for a planned attack at a Dallas-area shopping mall.
Stroman more recently denied the white supremacist description. He also had avoided trouble in prison in recent years, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons.
Stroman blamed the shootings on the loss of a sister in the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers — although prosecutors said in court documents there's no firm evidence she ever existed.
"I wanted those Arabs to feel the same sense of vulnerability and uncertainty on American soil much like the mindset of chaos and bedlam that they were already accustomed to in their home country," he said on a website devoted to his case.
He described his victims as "perched behind the counter here in the Land of Milk and Honey ... this foreigner who's own people had now sought to bring the exact same chaos and bewilderment upon our people and society as they lived in themselves at home and abroad."
But he added he had made a "terrible mistake out of love, grief and anger" and had destroyed his victims' families "out of pure anger and stupidity."
"I'm not the monster the media portrays me," he said last week from death row.
Besides Patel's slaying, Stroman was charged but not tried in the shooting death of Waqar Hasan, 46, a Pakistani immigrant who moved to Dallas in 2001 to open a convenience store. Hasan was killed four days after the terrorists struck. The attack on Bhuiyan came a week later.
Stroman's website: http://www.executionchronicles.org/stroman/index.htm