Local police and federal law enforcement believe the shooter who rampaged through a crowded Texas mall leaving at least nine people dead over the weekend regularly viewed and posted far right-wing extremist content on social media and espoused sympathy for Neo-Nazis.
The shooter, identified as 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia, was wearing a patch on his chest with the insignia “RWDS,” which authorities believe stands for “Right-Wing Death Squad,” according to multiple reports and an FBI bulletin obtained by Rolling Stone. He was killed following a shootout with police at Allen Premium Outlets in a suburb of Dallas.
Two senior law enforcement officials speaking with NBC News said a preliminary review of Garcia’s social media accounts showed hundreds of posts that included extreme racist rhetoric. Some of those posts reportedly contained content espousing white supremacy and Nazism. None of them, police say, were ever liked or shared by anyone else. Gizmodo could not immediately independently verify the posts cited by law enforcement.
An FBI bulletin viewed by Rolling Stone appeared to echo those findings. The FBI review of Garcia’s social media accounts reportedly revealed “hundreds of postings and images” with “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist rhetoric.” The FBI document goes on to note Garcia was discharged from the US military in 2008 over “mental health concerns.” Since then, he had spent recent years employed as a security guard where he received firearm proficiency training, according to CNN. His license to operate as a security guard, however, expired in 2020. The FBI did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
On Monday afternoon, after this story was published, Bellingcat researcher Aric Toler published a long tweet thread showing racist rants and other disturbing images pulled from an OK.RU social media account believed to be connected with Garcia. Toler also shared the link to a YouTube account where someone believed to be Garica slowly removes a Scream mask and speaks inaudibly into a voice emulator. The video was posted on the day of the shooting and had nearly 6,000 views at the time of writing. YouTube did not immediately respond to Gizmodo about why the video was still available.
The OK.RU account believed to belong to Garcia had nearly 2,000 posts documenting his disturbed, incel ravings. His account had no followers and appeared to function “like a personal diary,” Toler said. That diary of hate included images of Toler’s weapons and ammunition, a cryptic manifesto, and this image of him showing off a swastica tattoo on the left side of his chest. Garica was also apparently a big fan of former Vice columnist turned right-wing apologist Tim Pool and Libs of TikTok.
In one of the more chilling sections of Toler’s thread, the researcher uses Garcia’s Google Maps history to show him visiting the mall he would eventually attack three weeks prior. Toler believes the data shows Garcia was there “monitoring the peak visiting times,” where the mall would be the most crowded.
The RWDS insignia spotted on Garcia is popular amongst right-wing extremists and paramilitary groups, maybe most notably the Proud Boys. The image below, for example, shows the insignia worn by Proud Boys member Jeremy Bertino, who pleaded guilty late last year to seditious conspiracy for his involvement during the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Global Project Against Hate and Extremism Co-Founder Heidi Beirich told Gizmodo the acronym refers to the right-wing death squads present during Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s reign which were notorious for “throwing their communist adversaries out of helicopters.” In the modern white supremacist context, the defenestrated communists of the Pinochet era are equivalent to Antifa and members of other left-wing groups which are viewed as adversaries to far-right-wing groups. The Proud Boys, in particular, have capitalized on that imagery and even sold T-shirts with images of bodies being dropped from the sky.
“It’s a threat,” Beirich said. “It’s an implied threat and it’s a glorification of some of the worst violence there is.”
Experts say Garcia wouldn’t be the first non-white right-wing extremist who posted racist ravings. Northwestern history professor and author of Bring the War Home, Kathleen Belew, addressed the question of the shooter’s race in a tweet Monday where she said white power groups were increasingly “opportunistic” and eager to expand their own categories with white members always on top.
“The fact that his name is Mauricio Garcia shouldn’t confuse us,” Belew said. “This was a white power shooting.”
Beirich agreed and provided a long list of examples of known non-white extremists who espouse white supremacy, including Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and political commentator Nick Fuentes. Non-white extremists, Beirich added, may want to present as white and “align with whiteness” because it is viewed as the most powerful ethnicity in the county.
“Just because the ethnicity of the person is Latino doesn’t mean anything,” Beirich said. “You can become a white supremacist by self-identifying as one.”
One of the images taken from Garcia’s believed OK page essentially admits to this very phenomenon. The post shows a member where “Latino children” approach a fork in the road. The left path leads to “act black,” while the right path leads to “become white supremacist.”
“It’s funny cause it’s true,” the user believed to be Garcia wrote. “I think I’ll take my chances with the white supremacist.”
Local police, Texas Rangers, and federal law enforcement agencies are currently investigating possible racist motives for the shooting, though they stressed the investigation is still ongoing. The shooting, in other words, is being probed as a possible hate crime.
“Just the thought of living a few houses down from someone who can do this can be a little scary and give you more caution,” one of Garcia’s neighbors told NBC News. “I don’t know why people want to shoot innocent people for any reason.”
The horrifying shooting started around 3:30 pm local time at the Allen outlet mall. Police say Garcia was armed with an AR-15 style long rifle and a handgun. He was also wearing a tactical vest reportedly jam-packed with additional ammunition. Law enforcement officers speaking with The Washington Post say they found five additional firearms and even more ammunition in his car nearby.
Videos circulating online show terrified shoppers sprinting out of the mall after the shooting started. Garcia reportedly killed at least nine people, including children, and injured at least seven others. One witness cited by The Post claims they saw a young boy hiding under the corpse of his slain mother.
The tragedy comes less than one week after another shooting where police arrested a 38-year-old man who shot and killed five people in Cleveland, Texas. Nationally, the US is dealing with yet another flurry of mass shootings. The Gun Violence Archive, which tracks mass shootings across the country, estimates more than 200 shootings have occurred in the first five months of 2023. President Joe Biden commented on the shooting on Sunday calling attacks like these “too shocking to be so familiar.”
“Too many families have empty chairs at their dinner tables,” Biden wrote. “Republican Members of Congress cannot continue to meet this epidemic with a shrug. Tweeted thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
Update 5/8/2022: Added details from Aric Toler’s Twitter thread.