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Texas must do more to fight hate, racist terror after Allen shooting

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The massacre at an Allen outlet mall presents many challenges, and one of the most difficult will be confronting the extremism that appeared to help drive the shooter to his heinous act.

Mauricio Garcia was apparently eaten alive with hate for those not like him. Online accounts linked to him are littered with disgusting comments about Jewish, Asian and LGBTQ people. He embraced neo-Nazi ideology and symbols, even tattooing them on his body. He wore a slogan common to a violent far-right group. He appeared at least sympathetic to white supremacy, if not involved in any organized group.

It’s hard for most people to fathom such devotion to hate, so it’s tough to imagine how to confront it. For law enforcement, the situation is complicated by free-speech rights, the growth and spread of these sentiments across the internet and limited resources to investigate it.

But our leaders have to do more to confront it. The denunciations must be loud and repeated. Words aren’t enough: They need to provide resources and guidance for law enforcement about how to deal with this threat.

And make no mistake, it’s real: The Anti-Defamation League found, in a February report, that extremism-motivated mass killings have been on the rise for decades. Most attacks are motivated by far-right ideology, though farleft and Islamic extremist killers are part of the problem, too.

Investigation of such crimes is typically left to the FBI, which has the reach and resources to connect more dots. But state and local law enforcement should do more. The Legislature has poured resources into the Department of Public Safety in recent years, mostly in reaction to border security. Perhaps it’s time to divert more attention to threats from inside rather than outside.

DPS produced a domestic terror threat assessment in 2020. It acknowledged that white racist extremism is the most serious threat of violence. It also noted that one challenge for law enforcement is the lack of federal or state domestic terrorism laws.

The state Senate has approved a bill from Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford, that would create such a law. That would give law enforcement more power to investigate terroristic threats, and it would create a registry of those convicted of terror crimes, similar to the state sex-offender registry but accessible only to law enforcement. The bill is awaiting consideration in the House.

Even with such tools, no one should pretend that deterring attack plots or shootings will be easy. There’s no sign that Garcia explicitly advertised his intentions, except perhaps in some vague online posts. Tracking internet extremism is a digital rabbit chase. There are too many sites and while some monitoring may be appropriate, we do not want the FBI or DPS turning into the internet speech police.

For police to act, it takes more than expressions of hate. Beyond the difficulty of catching lone wolves, though, law enforcement can step up its investigation of organized hate groups that may encourage or even cultivate potential attackers.

There’s a role for the rest of us, too. Aren’t we all tired of hearing after a shooting about how the killer made threats, stockpiled weapons, maybe even harmed animals? Garcia may have been an exception, but there are almost always signs that trouble was brewing. People are rightfully hesitant to call the cops on a neighbor without direct cause, but perhaps family or friends can be alerted and they can intervene.

These are difficult issues in a big, diverse country and state that value individual liberty and a liveand- let-live attitude. But we can do more, starting with a better grasp on the hate in our midst. The souls of eight lost Texans deserve at least that much.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666