The shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas on Saturday is another in a series of mass shootings that have gripped the United States with seemingly no sign of abating. The mall shooting had one feature that distinguishes it from others, however, in that the shooter was a Latino man who held white supremacist beliefs.
Video from the scene shows a crowd of people enjoying a leisurely afternoon of shopping before running for their lives as the sound of rifle fire shatters the quiet calm.
The gunman, Mauricio Garcia, a local resident, wielding an “AR-15 style weapon,” according to a statement released by President Joe Biden on Sunday. Garcia was killed by a police officer who happened to be at the Allen Premium Outlets, roughly 25 miles north of Dallas. Garcia had multiple weapons on his person and had more guns and ammunition in his car.
Law enforcement and online researchers have revealed Garcia had branded himself with neo-Nazi and white supremacist tattoos. He posted hundreds of extremist messages and handwritten diary entries on Odnaklassniki (OK), a Russian social media site, as first reported by Aric Toler of the open-source investigation collective Bellingcat.
The account, which goes back 10 years, reveals Garcia held “deep-seated white supremacist and neo-Nazi beliefs, as well as misogynistic and incel views, and a proclivity for violence,” according to the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.
Garcia’s heinous act, alongside other Latino mass shooters and Latino white supremacists, reveals a troubling trend within Latino communities and bigoted beliefs that typically lie unquestioned.
Latino White Supremacy
Many people online have questioned how a Latino can have such intense racist beliefs, but the idea that Latinos cannot hold racist or white supremacist beliefs ignores key facets of Latino culture that can lead some to adopt hateful, far-right ideologies.
The Allen Texas mass shooter’s name has been released.
While MSM is fervently trying to tie this incident to white supremacy, I just want to say…
There has never in the history of racism been a Klan member or a neo nazi with a name even remotely close to ‘Mauricio Garcia.’
— Amiri King (@AmiriKing) May 7, 2023
Both historically and in more recent times, Latinos have played a large part in spreading extremist ideologies. For instance, Garcia posted photos of people dressed as Nazis alongside the caption “my kind of people.”
“Those ideas of white supremacy are already part of Latin American and Caribbean cultures,” Tanya Kateri Hernández, a law professor at Fordham University and the author of Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias, told Latino Rebels.
Anti-Black and anti-Semitic beliefs, among others, have long been part of Latino communities but are often veiled with “racial innocence,” Hernández explained, which allows many to describe these sentiments as “cultural misunderstandings” and so on, instead of what they actually are.
Over the last decade, Latinos have become prominent leaders in white supremacist movements.
Enrique Tarrio, the Afro-Cuban son of a Cuban immigrant, was chairman of the Proud Boys between 2017 and 2021. The Proud Boys are a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that is officially recognized as a terrorist organization by the governments of Canada and New Zealand. Tarrio, alongside three other members, was recently convicted of seditious conspiracy for his actions before and during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Garcia wore an “RWDS“ patch during his rampage, and Tarrio and many other Proud Boys have been seen wearing similar patches and selling merchandise bearing the acronym, which stands for “Right Wing Death Squads.” The term is common among neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, and refers to the U.S.-backed death squads that slaughtered thousands in El Salvador in the 1980s, as well as Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s death squads in the 1970s and ’80s.
Many Proud Boys members are themselves Latino. A desire to be seen as white in a world that exalts whiteness undoubtedly plays a significant role in adhering to the “cognitive dissonance to the max,” while saying “Raza Lives Forever [sic],” which Garcia wrote in his diary.
“White nationalist and other bigoted groups, many of them have made the strategic decision to do specific outreach to communities of color in recent years,” Lindsay Schubiner, director of the Western States Center’s Momentum program, which aims to combat the rise of white nationalism, told Latino Rebels.
White nationalists and other authoritarian groups spread the message that they are in a “zero-sum game of winners and losers and can sometimes motivate followers by suggesting that it’s important to get on the winning team,” according to Schubiner. One of the ways they do this is by drawing on racism and bigotry already present across racial lines to further divide communities.
Authorities also believe Garcia was an “incel,” or “involuntarily celibate,” a group of mostly young men that have been linked to extremist violence largely towards women. Garcia reportedly signed up with one of the most prominent incel forums, according to the SPLC.
In one post, Garcia wrote that women were “enemy agents, seeking to undermine and destroy you,” and that “[women offer] us absolutely f—-ing zero other than the POTENTIAL AND OFTEN VERY REMOTE POSSIBILITY [sic] of sex and children.”
Nick Fuentes, who claims Mexican heritage, is a high-profile white nationalist and incel streamer. He has been identified as a “white supremacist” in court filings and recently made national news for meeting with former President Donald Trump alongside Kanye West in what was characterized as the “most discomfiting moment in U.S. history in a half-century or more” for American Jews, according to the New York Times.
Salvador Ramos, the 18-year-old who shot and killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in May of last year, was also Latino and shared misogynistic traits with the Allen mall shooter. Both had links to incel culture and left digital trails of their plans before committing their respective acts.
Crafting an Online Legacy
Garcia described the “spectacle” of mass shootings in one OK post, referring to the way the media pays significant attention to the shooters, their motives, and covering the aftermath. Garcia seemed to understand how the public would react to his actions and likely left his digital diary as a way to craft a public narrative around him.
In the same OK post from April, Garcia described the Nashville shooter as having a “decent kill score,” referring to the number of people killed. Mass shooters and the posters that follow them have gamified these events, with many attempting to go for a “high score” when carrying out a massacre.
Many online are convinced that Garcia was looking to achieve such devastation judging by the number of weapons and ammunition on him.
Meanwhile, others have used the shooter’s race and ethnicity as proof of the conspiracy theory that undocumented immigrants and cartel members are flooding into the U.S. The digital aftermath of other Latino shooters spread by right-wing activists has also blamed immigrants.
White nationalists used the Allen, Texas murders to attack immigrants last night but anyone paying attention to right wing terror attacks wasnt surprised to hear the “right wing death squads” detail.
The problem is half the country denies these attacks are happening.
— Michael Edison Hayden (@MichaelEHayden) May 7, 2023
The True Texas Project, an SPLC-designated extremist group, posted tweets insinuating the shooter was “likely a member of Puro Tango Blast,” a loose coalition of Texas-based gangs, and that he was “possibly an illegal alien” and a “Hispanic invader.”
Garcia was a U.S. citizen, a former member of the military, and had no serious criminal record.
Many online posters have used images of migrants attempting to cross the U.S. border, most prominently an image showing Honduran migrants in Arriaga, Mexico from 2018, along with fake information about the shooter to support their conspiracy theory. The same posters have also threatened migrants, saying they could “easily get the high score” at the border.
Garcia posted a popular meme to OK implying that Latino kids only have two pathways in life —either “act black” or “become a white supremacist”— with the caption “I’ll take my chances with the white supremacist.”
Garcia wrote at length about how he hated Latinos he knew, often calling them “sore losers,” but that he was a “Hispanic whether I like it or not.” This was all mixed in with rants of “Heil Hitler” and other white power messages.
“To have members that don’t necessarily fit the former Ku Klux Klan member vision stereotype lends the organizations more legitimacy or at least a way in which to position themselves as being just a political platform as opposed to a racist hate group,” Hernández said of neo-Nazis and other, newer white supremacist groups.
The online reaction in both predominantly right-wing spaces and on platforms like Twitter has crafted a narrative that Garcia himself likely wanted to advance and one that hate groups will assuredly use to spread bigotry, describing Latinos as “illegal aliens” and “cartel members” and making Latinos out to be the enemy.
Carlos Edill Berríos Polanco is the Caribbean correspondent for Latino Rebels, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Twitter: @Vaquero2XL