It has been a month since the mass shooting in Allen that took eight lives and left another six people wounded. According to statements from the Texas Department of Public Safety and media reports, the shooter, Mauricio Garcia, held white supremacist beliefs, had Nazi symbols tattooed on his body, and expressed hypermasculine and misogynist views. Although investigators are still working to identify a precise motive for the killings, it is clear that Garcia had become immersed in an ecosystem of hateful far-right politics prior to the shooting.
Republican elected officials appeared eager to offer their thoughts and prayers in the immediate aftermath of the May 6 mass shooting. Some went out of their way to drive from the state capitol during a contentious legislative session to attend a prayer vigil at Cottonwood Creek Church, where former Republican state Representative Scott Sanford serves as executive pastor. But when it comes to condemning the hateful beliefs of the shooter, not one Republican elected official in Texas has been willing to make a public statement.
The Texas Observer reached out to 15 elected officials who represent constituents in Allen, requesting comment on the fact that the shooter held hateful views and is a part of a broader pattern of far-right mass murders. Only four responded. Only one condemned the Allen shooter’s beliefs without equivocation.
“Elected officials have the opportunity to educate a larger community than your everyday person about the dangers of this kind of extremist ideology and educate folks on why that kind of ideology is not good for our country or communities,” said Jake Kurz, spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “We invite all elected officials with an elevated platform to speak out against racism and extremist ideology and all forms. We think they have a real responsibility really to do that.”
Garcia, the 33-year-old former security guard who committed the mass murder in Allen, certainly fits the description. Garcia had Nazi symbols tattooed on his body and had included a Nazi symbol in his signature on government documents and a security guard application. Multiple extremist researchers who reviewed Garcia’s diary entries and social media posts told the Observer that Garcia expressed a range of antisemitic, racist, and misogynist “incel” views (“incel,” short for involuntarily celibate, is defined by the ADL as “heterosexual men who blame women and society for their lack of romantic success”). Although there is no evidence to suggest Garcia was an active member of a particular hate group, his own digital footprint suggests that he had been immersed in an ecosystem of far-right media—including podcaster and far-right whitewasher Tim Pool—and shared neo-Nazi and misogynist content online.
Of the eight former and newly elected Allen City Council officials we contacted, only Mayor Baine Brooks and former Mayor Ken Fulk responded. Neither would even comment on the ideology of the shooter or the pattern of which he is a part. Both Brooks and Fulk spoke at the vigil at Cottonwood Creek Church.
“I have no comment or further information on the facts you raise,” Mayor Brooks wrote in an email to the Observer. “Regardless of the motivation, these murders are heinous and the loss of life is heartbreaking for the families, friends and our communities. The people of Allen and so many from this area, state, and nation have responded with so much compassion and care, and our hearts are warmed.”
Former Mayor Fulk simply responded: “No comment.”
Only one of five state level elected officials, Democratic state Representative Mihaela Plesa, responded to the Observer’s request for comment.
“This shooter was not unique, we have seen this profile many times before with many mass shootings in our nation,” reads a statement from Plesa’s office. “We know the Allen shooter, just like the shooter in El Paso who drove from Allen, just like the shooter in Charlotte who targeted a historically Black church, and others shared some key characteristics. They held racist and hateful beliefs, they were known to be affiliated with or followers of white supremacy hate groups, and they were radicalized and encouraged by extremist, alt-right, ultra-conservative rhetoric that attacks immigrants, communities of color, and marginalized groups.”
The statement continues: “These shooters have been branded as being ‘lone wolves’ but we know their actions did not occur in a vacuum and they were not alone. The Allen shooter openly believed in white supremacy and was a self-identified neo-Nazi. This shooter, and others like him, have found community with others who hold these despicable beliefs, others who have been emboldened and lionized by extremist ideologies and supporters of rhetoric that calls for violence.”
The state Legislature did not pass any gun reform before the end of its normal session this year, and neither Governor Greg Abbott nor Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have named it as a priority for the proposed special sessions. Although the Allen shooter acquired all of his guns legally, he had been discharged from the Army for mental health concerns. Republican Congressman Keith Self, a recently elected freshman who represents Allen, has suggested that the shooter’s discharge not showing up as a red flag on background checks for firearms purchases is a “loophole” he intends to fix.
“My prayers and concerns continue to be with the victims and their families,” Self told the Observer. “Racism in any form is wrong, but I don’t believe the facts support your ideological thesis. The Allen shooter was discharged by the United States Army due to mental health concerns, which is more than likely the real issue and possibly the root cause of his radical views. A few months ago, I authorized expanded mental health funding for a local university, which was motivated by the growing concerns about mental health issues in America.”
Before completing basic training for the Army in 2008, Garcia was dismissed for mental health issues. Army officials told NBC News that they had been concerned about Garcia’s mental health early on, that he had an adjustment disorder (a common mental health disorder among those who serve in the military), and had never made public threats or committed crimes. Garcia revealed his mental health struggles alongside his extremist beliefs on social media, writing in his last post that he believed no psychologist could have helped him.
Garcia indeed suffered from mental illness, but he was also a misogynist neo-Nazi. These facts are not mutually exclusive or even necessarily related, and it’s unclear why the latter set should be ignored. Although Garcia’s crimes have yet to be labeled domestic terrorism by investigating authorities, consider the findings of a 2022 report published in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security which concludes existing data does “not support the assertion that terrorist samples are characterized by higher rates of mental health difficulties than would be expected in the general population.”
Even in the case of lone wolf killers like Garcia, who tend to have higher rates of mental illness than other terrorists, the report says their rates of mental illness “are broadly in line with what is expected in the general population.” Similarly, a 2022 article published by the Columbia University Department of Psychology asserts that “people with mental illness account for a very small proportion of perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States.”
“It is extremely unpleasant to live in an environment in which leaders are not comfortable immediately distancing themselves from the ideology of neo-Nazism, or the worldview embraced by the radical incel and male supremacist communities,” said Michael Edison Hayden, senior investigative reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center, who has written about the shooter’s beliefs. “The Allen shooter fit both of those profiles.”
Multiple emails requesting comment from state Representative Jeff Leach, state Senator Angela Paxton, Senator John Cornyn, Senator Ted Cruz, and Abbott went unanswered. The Observer was unable to find any previously reported comments from the aforementioned politicians condemning the shooter’s hateful extremist beliefs.
The silence from Republican elected officials in Texas seems particularly discordant when compared to comments from President Joe Biden, who described white supremacy as the “most dangerous threat” against the United States during a speech he gave a week after the shooting. “Silence is complicity,” Biden told the crowd.
“I think if we substitute Muslim, undocumented, or some other sort of adjective, many of these politicians would leave skid marks in their haste to offer condemnation,” said Professor Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
“What makes this silence particularly sad is that there has been a tradition of Texans, including both President George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, using their influence to push back against hate,” Levin told the Observer.
Indeed, when the senior Bush spoke at the signing ceremony for the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act, he unequivocally stood against the violent threat of bigotry and hate, stating that we “must rid our communities of the poison we call prejudice, bias and discrimination.” The junior Bush similarly took a stand against Islamophobia during a speech shortly after the terror attack of September 11, stating: “Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.”
One would think that it would be an easy thing to publicly condemn the Allen shooter’s blatant racism, misogyny, and self-identification with an ideology whose very name has become shorthand for racial supremacy and genocide. But these days something seems to be holding back Republican lawmakers in Texas from condemning Garcia’s hate and bigotry.
“A lot of the Allen shooter’s extremist beliefs should be easy things for them to condemn,” said Marc-André Argentino, a researcher with the Accelerationism Research Consortium who read through nearly a decade’s worth of Garcia’s diary entries and online posts. “But he also complained about illegal immigrants, the queer and trans community, women’s rights—a lot of the things that might also antagonize the voter base for some of these Texas politicians if criticized.”
Texas Republican politicians find themselves in a double-bind of their own creation. It’s not just that there’s political risk in sticking out their necks to condemn the Allen shooter’s extremist beliefs. Merely acknowledging them as fact has become a controversial act in certain sections of the right wing where the reality of white supremacist violence is adamantly rejected while asylum seeking refugees are framed as a dangerous threat.
In the days following the Allen shooting, True Texas Project—a right-wing activist group that has endorsed local candidates in Allen elections and hosted a screening of a conspiracy film at the Cottonwood Creek Church in 2022—baselessly claimed on Twitter that the shooter was likely a member of “prison gang” and “possibly an illegal alien” in an effort to claim that the massacre “wasn’t a gun problem.” Meanwhile, a host of right-wing media figures sowed doubt about the authenticity of the shooter’s hateful writings—writings that demonstrate the interplay between “manosphere” style misogyny and the far-right bigotry that fueled the shooter’s hate. Even Elon Musk, who has made inroads with Texas Republicans, took a turn at reality denial by tweeting in support of the bogus notion that reporting about the shooter’s white supremacist beliefs and neo-Nazi tattoos could be a “psyop” to make the right wing look bad.
“You have to ask yourself why it’s so important for politicians and figures with large cultural influence like Elon Musk to try to either ignore this or suggest it’s not true,” Hayden said. “It should be a no-brainer to want to distance yourself from things like incel misogyny or a purely hateful ideology.”
Whatever the motivation may be, the effect is clear. By denying or remaining silent about the Allen shooter’s most extreme associations, the right wing can avoid the painful practice of self-reflection when it comes to the general atmosphere of racial animosity, misogyny, and hypermasculinity that pervades contemporary conservative discourse.
“It’s not only extremist ideologies that the Allen shooter found attractive,” Argentino said. “It was anything that had strong masculine tropes. You could see it in the type of movies and music that he referenced, and how he used them to navigate his relationship with the world and his perception of his masculinity. “
Argentino believes that key members of the far right came to represent the “ultimate” in manliness, who are “not afraid” to fight for their culture. This sort of hypermasculinity is part and parcel of white nationalist movements that promote the great replacement theory, a paranoid and racist belief that immigrants and asylum seekers are attempting to “replace” white Americans of European descent—rhetoric which is mirrored by GOP leaders who call on supporters to defend the United States from an immigration “invasion.”
“In reality, many of Garcia’s beliefs are not far off from mainstream political discourse in the United States, so in theory to condemn his behavior they would also have to reevaluate their perception of their own policies and political stances.”