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“Right wing death squad”: What to know about the Allen shooter’s neo-Nazi views

By Robert Downen, The Texas Tribune

“Right wing death squad”: What to know about the Allen shooter’s neo-Nazi views” 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 wore extremist insignia, posted racist and misogynistic screeds and praised Nazis online. Here’s what you need to know about the shooter and his ties to ongoing right-wing mass violence.

On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that Mauricio Garcia, who was killed by police during Saturday’s attack at Allen Premium Outlets, had neo-Nazi tattoos and beliefs. Garcia also wore a patch during the killing spree that said “RWDS” — an acronym for “right wing death squad” — and while police have yet to announce a motive for the attack, journalists have uncovered a trove of social media posts in which the gunman fantasized about violence and glorified the Third Reich.

The Tuesday announcement contradicts days of claims by prominent conservatives — including U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia — who pointed to Garcia’s name and presumed Hispanic ethnicity to discount his potential ties to white supremacist movements.

“This is a very complicated aspect of right-wing extremism,” Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told CNN on Monday. “We would assume that everyone is white in a caucasian sense. But Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race, and so a lot of Hispanics might identify as being white.”

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 connects 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 spread 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.

“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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