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HomeUSAAfter Texas Mall Shooting, Searching for Motive and Grieving for Children

After Texas Mall Shooting, Searching for Motive and Grieving for Children

Investigators trying to learn why a gunman fatally shot at least eight people at a Texas mall are examining a social media profile, rife with hate-filled rants against women and Black people, that they believe belonged to the gunman.

The profile, found on the social media site OK.RU, matches the gunman’s birthday and refers to a motel where he was staying before the shooting. The profile also includes language praising Hitler, with references to neo-Nazi websites like The Daily Stormer.

On Sunday, officials identified the gunman, who was killed at the mall by a police officer, as Mauricio Garcia, 33. The motive for the attack remains unclear.

The police say he opened fire Saturday afternoon at the Allen Premium Outlets, a busy outdoor mall about 25 miles north of Dallas with more than 120 stores. Nine people were pronounced dead, including the gunman, and at least seven others were injured.

Investigators want to know more about the gunman’s motive, in part to determine whether the attack may have been connected to any wider threat to public safety that may persist even though the gunman is dead.

Two law enforcement officials said Mr. Garcia appeared to espouse white supremacist ideology, though it was not yet determined whether the shooting was an act of domestic terrorism.

At the shooting on Saturday, the gunman was wearing a patch that said “RWDS,” an abbreviation known to stand for “Right Wing Death Squad,” according to one official.

The phrase harks back to Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s violent right-wing regime in Chile in the 1970s and 1980s. The Pinochet government was notorious for assembling death squads that murdered their leftist enemies.

More recently, neo-Nazi groups in the United States and members of other far-right organizations like the Proud Boys have claimed the phrase, and often wear the abbreviation on clothing or patches. The Proud Boys in particular often combine RWDS labels with shirts reading, “Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong.”

The online profile being investigated also includes several pictures showing a black tactical vest with an RWDS patch. In addition, the profile includes a screenshot from Google Maps showing the time at which the mall where the shooting took place was likely to be busiest.

Though the writer of the posts suggests several times that they are of Hispanic origin — at one point indicating they are originally from Mexico — there is also a clear embrace of white supremacy. As recently as last month, the account contained a post saying that “white people and Hispanics have a lot in common.”

The identities of the shooting victims have not yet been released, another factor that leaves the motive murky. Even so, one fact weighed heavily on the suburban community outside Dallas where the murders occurred: There were children among the victims.

Although the police would not indicate how many children died, officials including President Biden acknowledged that there were more than one.

The ages of the seven people injured in the shooting ranged from 5 to 61, according to a spokesman for Medical City Healthcare, the hospital system treating some of the patients. As of Sunday afternoon, one patient had been transferred to a children’s hospital and was in fair condition. Three patients — their exact ages not yet released — remained in critical condition, while the others were in fair condition, according to Oscar Villarreal, a lieutenant in the state’s Department of Public Safety.

For one man who saw a young victim up close, the memory was devastating. In the moments after the shooting, as people fled the shopping mall in panic, Steven Spainhouer sped in his car in search of his son, an H&M employee, who had called him minutes earlier about an active shooter.

Mr. Spainhouer, a former police officer and Army captain who is 63, said that when he pulled into the parking lot, he did not see any police officers, and everything was quiet. He said that as he approached the H&M store, he found the windows shot out and several people lying on the ground, including a child lying in some bushes. He saw her “in a praying position with her head tucked down between her knees.”

Mr. Spainhouer reached to feel for a pulse. There was none. Then he turned her head to ask if she was OK. “She had no face,” he said.

At a news conference in Austin on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott said it remained too early to draw conclusions or develop policies in response to the shooting in Allen. “The first step to leading to some kind of resolution here, as well as providing information about the response needed from the state of Texas, is to know exactly why and how this happened,” he said when asked if more could be done to keep AR-15-style weapons out of the hands of people like the shooter.

“I believe in the coming days the public will be much better informed about why and how this happened,” the governor continued, “and that will inform us as Texas leaders about next steps to take to try to prevent crimes like this from taking place in the future.”

On Sunday night, Mr. Abbott joined Baine Brooks, the mayor-elect of Allen, and other officials at a prayer vigil at Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen. Mr. Brooks mourned “the kids that were to show up at home” and no longer were.

Kelly Lee, who lives in nearby McKinney, north of Allen, attended the prayer vigil as well. She said that she often went to the outlet mall, but was not there on Saturday.

Ms. Lee picked up flowers on the way to the vigil and planned to drop them off at a makeshift memorial by the mall. She shook her head and wiped away tears.

“I don’t know what is happening with our country,” she said.

Mary Beth Gahan and J. David Goodman contributed reporting.

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