ALLEN, Tex. — The gunman who opened fire on an outlet mall in a Dallas suburb on Saturday, killing at least eight people, had an apparent fascination with white-supremacist or neo-Nazi beliefs that are now being examined by investigators as a possible motive for the attack, people familiar with the investigation said Sunday.
Mauricio Garcia, a 33-year-old Dallas resident, had multiple weapons on him and five additional guns in his car nearby, said people familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing probe.
Authorities have not released a motive, but a patch on the shooter’s chest said “RWDS,” an initialism that stands for Right Wing Death Squad, according to people familiar with the investigation. The phrase is popular among right-wing extremists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, they said, and while there is still a great deal of evidence to analyze, and authorities have not reached any conclusions yet, investigators are approaching the shooting as a possible hate crime.
Witnesses said the gunman’s tactical vest was also packed with ammunition magazines, indicating just how much carnage he hoped to inflict at one of the most common places for Americans to gather on the weekends — a shopping mall. Panicked video from the scene showed adults running as fast as they could to get away from the crack of rifle fire, their shopping bags flapping around them as they sprinted across the parking lot. One young boy in a red T-shirt ran away while screaming “run,” a look of terror on his face.
The mall shooting marks the second time in less than 10 days that Texas has had a mass killing in which a gunman trained a powerful rifle on people. The staccato bursts of gun violence in America are increasing, according to some groups that track shootings, while public pleas by officials including President Biden to stem the bloodshed appear to have little effect.
The shooter also injured at least seven people before a police officer who happened to be at the mall on an unrelated call fatally shot him at about 3:30 p.m., Allen Police Chief Brian Harvey said Saturday. Authorities believe that the gunman acted alone and that there were no further threats, Harvey said during a news briefing.
At least one of the victims was a child, according to officials and witness accounts. A person wearing a security guard uniform was among the dead, according to several witnesses, but it was unclear whether the person was on duty at the time. A witness described finding a young boy alive under the corpse of his mother, who died protecting him.
The assailant was staying in a Dallas-area hotel at the time of the shooting, according to the people familiar with the investigation. Because the gunman is dead, a major focus of investigators is whether anyone knew what he planned to do or helped him in planning it. The gunman’s parents have been cooperating with authorities, these people said. Agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting with the investigation, according to officials.
Six victims were found dead at the scene, and nine people who had been injured were taken to hospitals by the local fire department, Allen Fire Chief Jon Boyd said Saturday. Two of them died at the hospital, police said.
The victims being treated at Medical City Healthcare trauma facilities ranged in age from 5 to 61, said Kathleen Beathard, a spokeswoman for the hospital system. At least three people remained in critical condition, according to an update Sunday. One patient was transferred to Medical City Children’s Hospital and was in fair condition, Medical City Healthcare said.
Sherry Tutt was shopping at Victoria’s Secret on Saturday when she heard booming sounds. People started rushing into the store, she said, and someone yelled, “‘They’re shooting!’”
Tutt and her fiance hurried into a storage area with a few dozen other customers, hiding among boxes. She said panic spread when the group had trouble getting through to 911. One woman was crying.
After about an hour, police escorted the group out of the store, telling them that if they had kids, they should cover their eyes. As she passed Fatburger, Tutt glimpsed two bodies — a sight she described as “something I will never unsee.” Told it was now safe to leave, scores of shoppers walked with their arms raised past police officers.
All the stores were closed Sunday at the Allen outlet mall, and police blocked entrances to the center of the sprawling complex. The parking lot in the center of the mall was packed with cars, which shoppers and employees had not been allowed to retrieve by mid-Sunday. Later in the day, the FBI said authorities would be assisting shoppers in reclaiming their vehicles until 9:30 p.m. Sunday night.
Biden ordered flags flown at half-staff through Thursday in recognition of the shooting victims. In a statement, he expressed condolences for the victims and called on Republican members of Congress to support a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, among other changes to gun laws.
“We need more action, faster to save lives,” he said. “Too many families have empty chairs at their dinner tables.”
Aerial footage of the scene, about 25 miles northeast of Dallas, showed what appeared to be bodies underneath white sheets on the ground outside an H&M outlet, where much of the violence was concentrated.
Steven Spainhouer pulled up to the mall minutes after his son, an H&M employee, called and said a shooter was inside the store. Spainhouer, 63, who said he was an Army and law enforcement veteran, arrived to find people running on the freeway and the streets. Police and paramedics were not yet on the scene.
Spainhouer described trying to help people who were shot outside H&M. He started with a girl who was in a “praying position” in the bushes outside the store. “I felt for a pulse,” recalled Spainhouer, who now works in risk management. “There was none. I pulled her head back. There was no face.”
Helen Bennett said she and her daughter were in the HanesBrands store when the manager saw someone in the parking lot exiting a car with a weapon. Everyone inside locked themselves in a storeroom, where they hoped fervently that bullets would not fly through the walls. A mother rocked her baby to keep the child from crying.
“As soon as we got in the backroom, we heard the shots — BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!” Bennett said.
Colin Palakiko, a 36-year-old cook, said he had gone to the mall to do some shopping for an upcoming vacation to Hawaii. He was in a Tory Burch shoe store with his mother when a girl ran in and said there was a shooter outside.
After taking shelter in the store for 45 minutes, the police led them outside in a single-file line. He heard a woman screaming frantically — she was saying another vehicle that was shot up was her boyfriend’s.
“That was the most horrifying sound I ever heard,” Palakiko said. There was a person Palakiko thought was a mall security guard on the ground in a white security uniform: He had been shot in the front of his body and was lying face down.
Deirdra Gordon, who was visiting from Arkansas, said she wept as police led her and others out of Banana Republic after the shooting. She and her husband, Bobby Gordon, said they saw several bodies, including a person in a security uniform and someone they thought was the shooter.
Nearby, a police officer helped a man with a leg wound exit a restaurant. The Gordons also saw bullet holes in store windows and the windshield of a gray sedan.
“It was just a beautiful Saturday,” Deirdra Gordon said. “It was just nice, and then all of a sudden, no one wanted to believe that that’s what was happening.”
Sonia Ali, whose son was working at the mall during the shooting and was not physically harmed, told The Washington Post that many of her son’s fellow high school students also work there. The school has emailed students, offering to help those experiencing trauma from the incident, she said.
On the suburban street where the gunman’s parents live, several of their neighbors described him as a quiet person who didn’t seem to court trouble. “He just seemed to be aloof, kind of disconnected. But he wasn’t threatening,” said Kevin Todd, who lives down the street.
One neighbor said that she didn’t know him well but that he would often honk his horn and wave when he drove past. The Garcia family had lived on the street for many years and were well-liked, neighbors said, adding that the gunman moved out of his parents’ home earlier this year.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, all Republicans, were in Allen on Sunday afternoon for a memorial service at Cottonwood Creek Church. Earlier in the day, Abbott told “Fox News Sunday” that his priority in response to mass killings is to address mental health crises, rather than to tighten gun regulations. (Research shows that stricter gun laws could lessen the severity of mass killings and may decrease overall gun violence.)
“We’ve got to find a way in this country where we can once again reunite Americans as Americans and come together in one big family and, in that regard, find ways to reduce violence in our country,” Abbott said in the interview.
Last year, Texas had the most mass killings by gun of any state, with six. This year it has already had three.
Less than two weeks ago and 240 miles south, a man allegedly killed five of his neighbors after they asked him to stop shooting his AR-15-style rifle near their home in Cleveland, Tex. The politics of gun violence and gun control are still being debated in the state, which is about to mark the first anniversary of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 4,613 firearms-related deaths in Texas. The state’s annual death toll from guns has increased steadily since 2014, when it recorded 2,848 such deaths.
On Monday, Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez and fellow Democrats plan to meet in Austin with relatives of victims of last year’s Uvalde school shooting to call for immediate action to address gun violence in Texas.
Democrats have proposed what Gutierrez calls “common-sense gun safety measures,” including a 30-day waiting period and increasing the age at which people can buy AR-15-style guns from 18 to 21, universal background checks, extreme risk protective orders, requiring safe gun storage, and banning the type of expanding bullets used in Uvalde.
Gutierrez said it wasn’t clear whether Republican state lawmakers would be moved to take action after the latest shooting. “I don’t know. We’ll find out tomorrow what the pulse is. My feeling is these people just want to pray their way out of this,” he said.
Texas has moved in recent years to loosen restrictions on firearms under Abbott’s leadership. In 2021, the state began allowing permitless carry, allowing residents to carry handguns in public without a license. The state “does not specifically put restrictions on who can carry a long gun such as a rifle or shotgun,” according to a Texas government website.
Rep. Keith Self, a Republican congressman whose district includes Allen, told The Post that debating politics wasn’t appropriate in the aftermath of the shooting.
Instead of limiting gun rights, Self said, local governments need to be free to better defend public spaces from armed criminals. He called proposals to restrict gun rights, such as raising the age at which people can purchase AR-15-style weapons, “a knee-jerk reaction that does not stop criminals.”
Still, gun-control advocates called for a substantive response. Shannon Watts, founder of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action, lamented how such killings have become commonplace in the United States. She noted that she’d gone to school in the county where the latest incident took place.
“If you haven’t been impacted yet by gun violence, God bless you. But sadly, it’s coming — to your state, community, school,” Watts said.
Mushtaq Abdullah, 38, said he walked past multiple bodies while exiting the mall Saturday. He was still anxious the next day. His car remained at the mall, and he had heard authorities were checking vehicles left there with bomb-sniffing dogs.
On Sunday morning when he took his family to brunch, he brought a gun for the first time.
Barrett, Iati, Shammas, Moyer and Javaid reported from Washington, and Pietsch and Masih reported from Seoul. Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston; John D. Harden in Oakland; Perry Stein, Alex Horton and Andrea Salcedo in Washington contributed to this report.
The Allen, Tex. mall shooting
A gunman opened fire at Allen Premium Outlets, a shopping mall in a Dallas suburb, on Saturday. At least eight people were killed and seven injured. The gunman was fatally shot by a police officer.
The victims: Six of the eight victims were found dead at the scene; two others died at hospitals. Some of the victims were children. The people being treated at trauma facilities range in age from 5 to 61 years old.
The shooter: Mauricio Garcia was shot and killed by authorities at the mall. He was in his early 30s and may have had neo-Nazi beliefs, although a motive has not been released.
Response: Rep. Keith Self (R), the congressman who represents the area, rebuked criticism of officials offering “thoughts and prayers,” for which he’s received criticism. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting an “unspeakable tragedy.” The shooting is the second-deadliest in the U.S. so far this year.