ALLEN, Texas – Federal officials are examining whether the gunman who killed eight people at a Dallas-area shopping mall expressed an interest in white supremacist ideology Sunday as they work to discern a motive for the attack, a law enforcement official at the Associated Press. The official warned that the investigation is in its early stages.
Federal agents have reviewed social media accounts they believe were used by Mauricio Garcia, 33, and posts expressing interest in white supremacist and neo-Nazi views, said the official, who could not publicly discuss the details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Garcia also had a patch on his chest when he was killed by police that read “RWDS,” an acronym for the phrase “Right Wing Death Squad,” which is popular with right-wing extremist and white supremacist groups, the official said.
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In addition to reviewing social media posts, federal agents interviewed Garcia’s family members and associates to ask about his ideological beliefs, the official said. Investigators are also reviewing financial records, other online posts they believe Garcia made, and other electronic media, according to the official.
Allen Police Chief Brian Harvey declined Sunday night to answer questions from the AP, saying of the investigation, “we really don’t have much.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety has identified Garcia as a suspect in killing eight people at a Texas outlet store, one day after the attack turned an afternoon of shopping into a massacre.
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Garcia was fatally shot Saturday by a police officer who was near the Dallas suburban mall.
A law enforcement official said investigators searched a Dallas motel near a highway where Garcia had stayed. The official said police also found several weapons at the scene after Garcia was killed, including an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun.
Two law enforcement officials said detectives also searched a Dallas home connected to the suspect. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of an ongoing investigation.
A woman who lives three houses from the low brick house said she saw a large group of uniformed officers enter the house between 6 and 7 pm on Saturday
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“They came in really fast, and I saw them do it twice,” said Marsha Alexander, who said officers were still in the area when she went to bed between 9 and 10pm. They were gone Sunday morning.
Sunday afternoon, a woman named Julie was sitting on the porch of her house, next to the one she searched the day before. She declined to give her last name to an AP reporter, but she said she woke from a nap Saturday around 6:00 p.m. to see four police cars and a large group of officers outside her neighbor’s house. she.
She said they entered the house and were joined about an hour later by FBI agents and other plainclothes people, whom she also considered law enforcement.
The woman said she didn’t know her neighbors well, but she knew they were “very polite and very nice people”. She said the man she now understands to have been the shooter was always friendly and waved or honked her horn as she came and went.
At around 2 pm on Sunday, a man entered the house which was searched, but when reporters knocked on the door and waited, no one answered.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said the assailant was wearing tactical gear and fired an AR-15-style weapon. He has urged Congress to enact tougher restrictions on firearms and ammunition.
“Such an attack is too shocking to be so familiar. Yet, American communities have experienced about 200 mass shootings already this year, according to major tallies,” said Biden, who ordered flags lowered to half-staff.
Republicans in Congress, he said, “cannot continue to address this epidemic with a shrug of their shoulders.”
The shooting was the latest attack to contribute to the unprecedented rate of mass killings this year in the U.S. Just a week earlier, five people were shot and killed in Cleveland, Texas after a neighbor asked a man to stop firing his weapon while a child slept, authorities said.
This year has seen an average of about one massacre a week, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.
Information about Allen’s gunman emerged as the community mourned the dead and awaited news of the seven injured people. Authorities have not publicly identified those killed.
The injured remained hospitalized Sunday, three in critical condition and four in fair condition, the Allen Police Department said in a statement.
John Mark Caton, senior pastor of Cottonwood Creek Church about two miles from the mall, offered prayers during a regular Sunday service for victims, first responders, shoppers and employees who “came out to things they never should have see”.
“Some of ours were there. Some maybe in this room. Some of our students worked in those stores and they will be changed forever by that,” Caton said.
Caton offered similar sentiments during a Sunday church vigil attended by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed laws easing firearm restrictions after past mass shootings in Texas, and other elected leaders. Earlier that day, Abbott told Fox News that Texas would not implement gun control now.
“People want a quick fix,” Abbott said. “The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”
The attack took place at Allen Premium Outlets, a vast open-air mall. Witnesses reported seeing children among the victims. Some said they also saw what appeared to be an unconscious police officer and mall security guard on the ground.
Andria Gaither, the assistant manager of the Tommy Hilfiger clothing store, said she was in the back of the store Sunday afternoon when she saw two girls trying to hide in a dressing room. At first she thought they were playing. Then she heard someone say that shots were being fired.
Gaither looked around and saw customers and the store manager running towards the back of the store. Finally, Gaither and the others ran out a back door.
“As soon as I walked out the back of the store, you heard gunshots,” Gaither said Sunday. “It was so loud. I’ve never heard anything like it in my life. It was deafening.”
Allen, approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of downtown Dallas and with a population of approximately 105,000 residents, is among several suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The area has seen the highest Asian-American growth rate of any metropolitan area in the United States, according to US Census data. These statistics show that Allen’s population is approximately 19% Asian, 10% Black, and 11% Hispanic.
Allen is also linked to another of the recent mass shootings in Texas. Patrick Crusius lived there in 2019 before posting a racist creed online warning of a “Hispanic invasion” and traveled to El Paso, where he opened fire on a Walmart, killing 23 people. Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and weapons charges in February.
Balsamo reported from Washington and Stengle reported from Dallas. Associated Press writers Vanessa Alvarez in New York, James Vertuno in Austin, Adam Kealoha Causey in Dallas, Gene Johnson in Seattle, and Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho contributed to this report.