El Paso shooting “domestic terrorism”, police investigating anti-immigration manifesto
A shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 20 people dead and 26 more injured is being investigated as a domestic terror attack, Texan officials said on Sunday (local time).
A 21-year-old male is in custody after the mass shooting, one of the deadliest incidents in the state’s history.
Police say a racist, anti-immigrant document was allegedly written by the suspect and posted on 8chan, an online messaging board full of racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic content.
According to CNN, the document was posted 20 minutes before police received the first calls about the shootings.
The four-page document posted online supports white nationalist and racist views.
It rails against immigrants and Hispanics, blaming immigrants and first-generation Americans for taking away jobs and for the blending of cultures in the United States.
Federal authorities are treating the shooting as a case of domestic terrorism because the shooting “appears to be designed to intimidate a civilian population, to say the least,” according to the US Attorney for the Western District of Texas, John Bash.
“We’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is to deliver swift and certain justice,” Mr Bash said.
El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza said the suspect faces capital murder charges and that his office will seek the death penalty.
FBI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie said more investigation is needed before determining that the mass shooting was a hate crime.
“Right now, it is a murder investigation,” Mr Buie said.
“There is potential for a number of different other violations, and we’re reviewing all the evidence to make a determination as to what potentially else is out there, in addition to the violations that have been stated that the local authorities are pursuing.”
Police chief Greg Allen said law enforcement still needed to “validate for certain” that the document under question was authored and posted by the suspect.
If the manifesto is authentic, it would make it the third mass shooting announced in advance on 8chan in less than five months.
In response to the document, 8chan commenters speculated whether the shooting would produce an impressive body count, mocked the shooter, and wrote “Hello FBI.”
“That’s it. This website is getting shutdown,” one 8chan commenter wrote.
Since mid-morning (local time), commenters on 8chan had been circulating a document posted to the site that referenced Texas and a planned shooting attack motivated by white nationalist ideology.
The 8chan document under investigation by Texas law enforcement described a gun attack that was intended to be “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Its author described a hatred of race-mixing, and suggested that the United States should be separated into different territories for different races. His opinions on immigration predated Donald Trump’s run for president, the author wrote.
The document includes expression of support for the Christchurch gunman, whose attack on a New Zealand mosque left 51 people dead in March.
The alleged Christchurch gunman also described immigrants of colour as an “invasion”.
David Stout, El Paso county commissioner, who spent the day at the hospital and and school where people gathered, told The Guardian it was “heartening and beautiful to see how in this community, we care for each other,” and noted there were massive lines of people donating blood.
He also noted that he witnessed many people offering rides and meals to victims’ families.
“People just keep showing up to help,” he said.
However, he added: “This is the most difficult day that I’ve seen in El Paso.”
Globally, there have been at least 16 major violent attacks clearly linked to white supremacist ideology since 2011, not inlcuding last week’s attack on a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, which law enforcement officials are still investigating.
Suspects in two previous white supremacist shootings, the Christchurch shooting, and an April shooting targetting synagogue in Poway, California, that left one person dead and three injured, both posted documents on 8chan before the attacks.
Posts linked to the suspect in a November mass shooting attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which left 11 Jewish worshipers dead, also referred to immigrants and refugees as “invaders.”
Those posts were made on Gab, a different extremist social network.
Early reports suggested the weapon in the El Paso shooting was a rifle, but police could not immediately confirm the make or model of the weapon, authorities said.
The police chief said only one weapon had been identified.
An image of the word “Trump” spelled out in guns, circulating on Sunday as the work of the shooter, was in fact initially created in January 2017, and posted on the “Weakend Gunnit” subreddit, where gun fans share memes and softcore porn.
Since then it has regularly shown up in other corners of the rightwing web, including the main Trump subreddits and several popular Twitter accounts.
One of those reposts, by an account under the obviously-fake name “John Doe”, was “liked” by an account in the name of the alleged El Paso shooter in February 2017, one month after the image was first created.
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