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“Right wing death squad”: What to know about the Allen shooter’s suspected extremism

By Robert Downen, The Texas Tribune

“Right wing death squad”: What to know about the Allen shooter’s suspected extremism” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The man who killed eight people at a Dallas-area mall reportedly wore extremist insignia, posted misogynistic screeds and praised Nazis online. Here’s what you need to know about the shooter and his apparent ties to ongoing right-wing mass violence.

On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that Mauricio Garcia, who was killed by police during Saturday’s attack at Allen Premium Outlets, was wearing a patch that said “RWDS” — an acronym for “right wing death squad.” Law enforcement groups are also probing Garcia’s potential ties to white supremacist and extremist groups, though they have not yet determined a motive for the attack.

The FBI’s “review and triage of the subject’s social media accounts revealed hundreds of postings and images to include writings with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist rhetoric, including neo-Nazi materials and material espousing the supremacy of the white race,” Rolling Stone reported Sunday, citing FBI documents.

Almost immediately, some pointed to Garcia’s last name and presumed Hispanic ethnicity to discount his potential ties to white supremacist movements. But history — and the patch he was reportedly wearing — suggest that’s a short-sighted assessment.

Nick Fuentes, the Holocaust-denying antisemite who recently had dinner with former President Donald Trump, has a half-Mexican father. Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys chair who was found guilty last week of seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, is Afro-Cuban. Seeing a recruitment opportunity, the Daily Stormer — arguably the most influential Nazi propaganda outlet in the world — began publishing in Spanish in 2017. And there is ample evidence that extremist views are on the rise among communities of color, despite often being couched in ideologies that perpetuate false notions of racial or ethnic hierarchy.

It is “part of the mutation that takes place as the racist fringe tries to become more mainstream,” Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University, told Axios last year.

Moreover, the patch Garcia was reportedly wearing also offers troubling clues about his ideology — and how it might connect to views that are common among white supremacist groups.

“This ‘Right Wing Death Squad’ patch strongly suggests ties to far-right extremist elements in America,” said Andy Campbell, a Huffington Post editor and author of the recent book “We Are Proud Boys,” which traces the violent group’s origins and white supremacist goals. “Today, the RWDS patch is prevalent at events that feature neo-Nazis, Proud Boys or other far-right extremist groups, and you don’t often see it anywhere else.”

Often shortened to RWDS, “right wing death squad” has for years been a popular slogan among neo-Nazis and other extremist groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center traces its origins to The Right Stuff, a white nationalist hate group, and it has frequently been donned by members of extremist groups, including leaders of the Proud Boys. In 2021, members of a “right wing death squad” Facebook group were arrested after plotting to “McVeigh” the Democratic National Committee — a reference to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in 1995.

And the slogan has a direct connection to political violence — specifically Augusto Pinochet, the CIA-backed dictator who murdered and tortured countless Chileans in the 16 years he led the country. Pinochet was infamous for his brutal campaigns against communists, socialists and other perceived enemies who were frequently dropped into the ocean from helicopters.

Today’s far-right movements adore him. One shirt, the front of which says “Pinochet did nothing wrong,” is particularly popular. The back reads, “Make communists afraid of rotary aircraft again,” with a cartoon of people being dropped from a helicopter. The sleeve has “RWDS” on it.

The Proud Boys, who Campbell said “fight under an explicit banner of white supremacy” and demand members agree “that white men created Western culture,” have sold Pinochet merchandise, and some of the group’s leaders have been photographed wearing “RWDS” patches and pro-Pinochet garb.

Pinochet “is celebrated by modern extremist groups for the extrajudicial murders of political opponents he oversaw — in particular, his regime’s habit of tossing leftists out of helicopters,” Campbell added.

The shooting in Allen occurred amid a wave of mass killings committed by right-wing extremists, many of them animated by conspiracy theories that claim there is an intentional, often Jewish-driven effort to dilute white blood through immigration, LGBTQ rights and interracial marriage. Other attacks were fueled by rhetoric that depicts immigrants as “invaders” — a common trope among Republican Party leaders such as Gov. Greg Abbott, who has continued to use such language despite routine warnings of its danger. The gunman who killed 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in August 2019 said he wanted to stop the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

In November, five people were murdered at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ club by a man who reportedly ran a neo-Nazi website. Six months earlier, a white supremacist targeted Black shoppers at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, killing 10. Using 2020’s racial justice protests as cover and hoping to kickstart a second civil war, a U.S. Air Force sergeant attacked law enforcement in California, killing two. Two months earlier, a white supremacist opened fire at a Poway, California, synagogue, killing one. A month before that, a white supremacist killed 51 people at New Zealand mosques in a livestreamed attack that has inspired numerous mass shooters in America. In 2018, a white supremacist murdered 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.

Several school shooters — including the perpetrators of mass killings in Santa Fe, Texas, and Parkland, Florida — have also espoused white supremacist views.

Other mass shooters — including Garcia — reportedly held beliefs that are common among so-called “incels.” The term is shorthand for people who are “involuntarily celibate” and who frequently blame their lack of romantic success on feminism. The ideology is replete with misogyny, racism and antisemitism, and online “incel” communities have for years been targeted for recruitment by white supremacists and other extremist movements.

Investigators are reportedly examining a social media profile that they believe was Garcia’s. It apparently included hate-filled rants about women and Black people and praised Adolf Hitler and neo-Nazis.

“Incel” ideology also has significant overlap with the broader “men’s rights” movement, which claims that men are losing power in society because of feminism. Such ideology was foundational to the spread of today’s far-right movements, particularly among disaffected young men in online gaming communities nearly a decade ago.

And it has its own, growing body count: In 2021, eight people were killed during a shooting spree at various Atlanta spas by a man who blamed women for his sexual addictions.

In 2020, a self-described “anti-feminist” lawyer, motivated by a belief that “manhood is in serious jeopardy,” killed a federal judge’s son.

In 2018, 10 people were killed and 16 injured in a Toronto van attack. Prior to the rampage, the killer posted that “the incel rebellion has already begun.” And on social media, he had often praised Elliot Rodger, the perpetrator of a misogynistic terror spree that killed six people at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014.

Disclosure: The Southern Poverty Law Center has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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