Federal investigators will treat Saturday morning’s mass shooting in El Paso, TX as an act of domestic terrorism, according to John Bash, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas. “We’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is to deliver swift and certain justice,” Bash said in a press conference. El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza added that his office has charged the shooter with capital murder, and that he will be seeking the death penalty.
The shooter, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, opened fire at an El Paso Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall, killing 20 people and injuring at least 26. Among them was Jordan Anchondo, a 25-year-old mother who died shielding her two-month-old son from being shot.
Several news outlets, including The New York Times, have reported that the shooter is alleged to be the author of a 2,300-word “manifesto” filled with hate speech surrounding the growing immigrant population in Texas, though authorities have not yet confirmed his authorship. This document was posted online just minutes before the shooting; according to CNN, this was allegedly the third white nationalist manifesto a gunman shared to the website 8chan before committing an act of domestic terrorism this year. The other two manifestos were written by men who carried out mass shootings at a synagogue in Poway, CA and Christchurch, New Zealand.
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote on Twitter, “Killing random civilians to spread a political message is terrorism.” He added that, although the FBI has classified the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism, “‘white terrorism’ is more precise.”
On July 23, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified to the Senate that he has recorded about 100 arrests related to domestic terrorism over the past nine months, and that most of them were related to white supremacy. A spokeswoman for the FBI later clarified that the bureau has recorded 90 domestic terrorism arrests, and 100 international terrorism arrests. According to a memo obtained by Yahoo! News and dated May 30, 2019, conspiracy theories perpetuated online will now be considered a serious threat by the FBI. One of these theories, QAnon, has been spread primarily on 8chan.
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” reads the document.
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