Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters on Monday that officers who searched the gunman’s home found a map with 34 targets, including two churches. McQuilliams had fired bullets into Austin police headquarters, a federal courthouse and the Mexican consulate in downtown Austin on Friday. He also tried to set the Mexican consulate building on fire.
Previously, police said they had not yet determined the motive for the shooting, which left only the gunman dead, but speculated that the current immigration debate could have been a factor. On Monday, federal investigators said the gunman didn’t leave a note that outlined his motive, but that he had previously told friends he was upset he couldn’t find a job, even as immigrants to the United States receive assistance.
On his bed, the gunman left a note and laid out clothes, officials said. A note left behind said the outfit was for his funeral.
“Hate was in his heart,” Acevedo said.
Police believe McQuilliams associated himself with the Phineas Priesthood, an anti-Semitic, anti-multiculturalism affiliation that opposes biracial relationships, same-sex marriage, taxation and abortion. Authorities found a copy of “Vigilantes of Christendom,” a book linked to the Priesthood, in the rental van McQuilliams used during the attacks. Inside of the book was a handwritten note that “discusses his rank as a priest in his fight against anti-God people,” Acevedo said.
“If you look at what he did, he terrorized a city, he’s just an American terrorist trying to terrorize our people,” Acevedo said.
Law enforcement officials will continue to investigate the gunman’s background, the police chief said.
Among other things investigators need to determine: How McQuilliams got his weapons. He had been arrested in 1998 for driving under the influence and in 1992 for aggravated robbery, Acevedo said. He also served time in prison for a bank robbery.
Phineas Priesthood affiliates were tied to a string of 1996 bank robberies and bombings in the state of Washington.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Post that the Phineas Priesthood is a “concept” that originated with “Vigilantes of Christendom,” which came out in 1990. The group takes its name from a story about the biblical figure of Phineas in the book of Numbers.
In the story, Phineas slays an Israelite man and a Midianite woman who were together in a tent. “To the extreme right, this [story] is a biblical injunction against race mixing,” Potok said. Phineas Priests would also use the passage to justify violent acts in the name of their beliefs. “It’s very much a self-calling,” Potok said of those who would identify as Phineas Priesthood members. “If you commit a Phineas act…you can be considered a Phineas priest.”
In a backgrounder, the Anti-defamation league wrote that “the Phineas Priesthood is not a membership organization in the traditional sense: there are no meetings, rallies or newsletters.” The ADL added that “extremists become ‘members’ when they commit ‘Phineas acts:’ any violent activity against ‘non-whites.'” Potok noted that the affiliation does not have a national structure.
There is no organization that would determine whether one is a “member” of the group or not. Its affiliates, like McQuilliams, would be self-designated.
Its members identify themseves as Christians, however, “they are really not Christians in any sense that a christian would accept,” Potok added. Most mainstream American Christians, he said, would find a Phineas Priest’s reading of scripture to be “heretical.”
This post has been updated.