US police investigate if Texas gunman held white supremacy and neo-Nazi views as Biden renews calls for gun control
Federal officials are looking into whether the gunman who killed eight people at a Dallas-area mall expressed an interest in white supremacist ideology as they work to try to discern a motive for the attack, according to a law enforcement official.
The official, speaking to the The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, cautioned the investigation was in its early stages and said they could not discuss details of the investigation publicly.
Federal agents have been reviewing social media accounts they believe suspect Mauricio Garcia, 33, used and posts that expressed interest in white supremacist and neo-Nazi views, the official said.
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 among right-wing extremists and white supremacy groups, the official said.
In addition to reviewing social media posts, federal agents have interviewed family members and associates of Garcia 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.
The investigation comes as United States President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass gun control bills after the latest mass shooting.
The Democratic president renewed calls for Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as to enact universal background checks and end immunity for gun manufacturers.
There is little chance the narrowly divided House and Senate will pass such legislation, although polls show most Americans support background checks.
Mr Biden — who has made similar pleas before — said the assailant at Allen Premium Outlets mall in Allen, a northern suburb of Dallas, wore tactical gear and was armed with an AR-15 style assault weapon.
The gunman killed eight people, including children, and wounded at least seven, before a police officer shot and killed him, police said on Saturday.
The attack unfolded at a sprawling outdoor shopping centre, where witnesses reported seeing children among the victims.
Andria Gaither — the assistant manager at the Tommy Hilfiger clothing store — said she was at the back of the store that afternoon when she saw two young girls trying to hide in a dressing room.
At first, she thought they were playing. Then she heard one say shots were being fired.
Ms Gaither looked around to see customers and the store manager running to the back of the business. Eventually, Ms Gaither and the others ran out a back door.
"As soon as I got outside the back of the store, you could hear the shooting," Ms Gaither said on Sunday.
"It was so loud. I'd never ever heard anything like that in my life. It was deafening."
Dashcam video circulating online showed the gunman getting out of a car and shooting at people on the sidewalk.
More than three dozen shots could be heard as the vehicle that was recording the video drove off.
Mass shootings have become commonplace in the United States, with at least 199 so far in 2023, the most at this point in the year since at least 2016, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The non-profit group defines a mass shooting as any in which four or more people are wounded or killed, not including the shooter.
Officials said three people transported to area hospitals were in critical condition as of Saturday, while four had been stabilised.
A graphic, 10-second video shared on Twitter on Saturday showed several dead bodies slumped against a planter and white wall bearing the sign of retailer H&M.
At least one of the individuals, lifeless and bloody, appears to be a young child.
Reuters was able to verify that the video was taken at the mall where the shooting took place.
In past shootings, social media sites worked to take down links to such graphic images.
This week's Nashville school shooting is the latest in the long history of mass shootings across America, with the number of incidents rising significantly in the last decade.
An emailed request for comment to Twitter, which no longer has a communications team, returned an automated reply with a poop emoji.
Some Twitter users said people and politicians needed to see videos like this one to grasp the magnitude and horrific nature of gun violence.
Others said it should be taken down.
"There is nothing virtuous or ethical about showing easily [identifiable] dead children and adults, whose families might not yet know they are dead," wrote Emily Bell, a professor and the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.
"It's deeply unethical — it strips victims and their families of privacy and dignity in death. It serves only Musk's click farm."
Happening just over a week after another deadly shooting in the Texas town of Cleveland, the tragedy at Allen has reignited the heated debate over gun control in the United States.
The US Constitution's Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, and that issue is a hot button one for many Republicans, who are backed by millions of dollars in donations from gun rights groups and manufacturers.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, called the shooting "devastating" in a Sunday morning interview on Fox News, but said that the way to effectively tackle gun violence lies in addressing mental health.
"There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of anger and violence that's taking place in America," he said.
"We are working to address that anger and violence by going to his root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats stressed the need to pass stronger gun safety legislation to curtail gun violence.
On Saturday, TV aerials showed hundreds of people calmly walking out of the mall, located about 40 kilometres north-east of Dallas, as the violence unfolded, many with their hands up as scores of police stood guard.
One unidentified eyewitness told local ABC affiliate WFAA TV that the gunman was "walking down the sidewalk just … shooting his gun outside".
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