Posts show mall gunman researched attack, had Nazi tattoos
DALLAS — The man accused of killing eight people and wounding several others in a mass shooting at a suburban Dallas shopping mall researched when it was busiest and posted photos on social media in mid-April of a store near where he ultimately started his attack.
The posts by Mauricio Garcia, whom authorities have identified as the gunman, on a Russian social networking site suggest the 33-year-old had been planning the attack for weeks before he stepped out of a silver sedan and opened fire Saturday.
Garcia's activity on the site also betrayed a fascination with white supremacy and mass shootings, which he described as sport. Photos he posted showed large Nazi tattoos on his arm and torso, including a swastika and the SS lightning bolt logo of Hitler’s paramilitary forces.
Other posts indicated he had researched to find out when the shopping center in one of the Dallas-area’s most diverse suburbs would be the busiest — Saturday afternoons, the time he ultimately chose to carry out the massacre.
The activity added to a picture that was emerging Monday of the gunman, who was discharged from the Army in 2008 because of mental health issues and apparently had been working as a security guard, according to neighbors and an Army official.
The attack in Allen ended when police shot and killed Garcia.
Aric Toler, director of training and research at the international research collective bellingcat.com, said he identified Garcia’s profile on the site OK.RU by searching for active accounts with his birthdate located in the U.S. The AP independently verified the account, which also featured an image of a traffic ticket with Garcia’s name and birthdate as well as paperwork from a motel where he stayed before the shooting.
Garcia's online profile has come under scrutiny by federal agents who are looking into what motivated the shooting, according to a federal law enforcement official who could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The official also said Garcia had a patch on his chest when police killed him that read “RWDS,” an acronym for the phrase “Right Wing Death Squad,” popular among right-wing extremists and white supremacy groups.
In addition to reviewing social media posts, federal agents have interviewed family members and associates of Garcia to ask about his ideological beliefs, the official said. Investigators are also reviewing financial records, other online posts they believe Garcia made and other electronic media, according to the official.
Garcia joined the Army in 2008 but was terminated three months later without completing his initial training, said U.S. Army spokeswoman Heather J. Hagan, who added that the Army doesn't disclose the reason for any soldier's discharge.
According to an Army official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel issues, though, Garcia was kicked out of the Army due to mental health issues.
He received an “uncharacterized” discharge, which is common for recruits who don’t make it through training or the first 180 days, according to a defense official who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel issues. That type of discharge — which is not dishonorable — would not set off red flags or require any reports to law enforcement.
The attack happened at Allen Premium Outlets, a sprawling outdoor shopping center about 25 miles north of downtown Dallas. At least one witness said he saw what appeared to be someone in a security guard’s uniform among the dead. Another said the suspected gunman appeared to be wearing all black.
On the Dallas block where Garcia had been living at a family home until recently, neighbors said Garcia apparently worked as a security guard and that they would sometimes see him wearing his dark-colored work uniform.
None of the neighbors knew where Garcia worked, and the company that manages the mall where the attack happened didn't immediately reply to a Monday phone message or email seeking further information, including if Garcia had worked there.
Neighbors also said that after the attack, authorities pored over the home where Garcia had lived.
A woman who lives next door to the home said she didn't know her neighbors well, but knew them to be “very polite, very nice people.” The woman, who would only identify herself as Julie, said Garcia was always friendly, waving and honking his horn.
Allen Police Chief Brian Harvey declined to answer questions Sunday evening, saying of the investigation, “we actually don’t have a lot.”
A law enforcement official said investigators have been searching a Dallas motel where Garcia had been staying in the runup to the attack. The official said police also found multiple weapons at the scene after Garcia was killed, including an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun.
Amid protests Monday at the Texas Capitol for stricter gun control, two Republicans sided with Democrats to advance a bill that would raise the age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, though the measure has little or no chance of actually becoming law.
The shooting was the latest attack to contribute to the unprecedented pace of mass killings this year in the U.S. Just over a week before, five people were fatally shot in Cleveland, Texas, after a neighbor asked a man to stop firing his weapon while a baby slept, authorities said.
This year has seen an average of about one mass killing per week, according to a database maintained by the AP and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.
Information about Garcia emerged as the community mourned the dead and awaited word on the seven people who were wounded. Authorities have not publicly identified those who were killed.
Medical City Healthcare said Monday it was treating six patients at three of its hospitals: Three were in critical condition, two were in fair condition and one was in good condition at a children’s hospital. Police said a seventh wounded person was taken to a different hospital.
Allen, which is home to about 105,000 people, is among the Dallas-Fort Worth area's diverse suburbs. The area saw the largest Asian American growth rate of any major U.S. metro area, according to U.S. Census figures. Those statistics show that Allen's population is about 19% Asian, 10% Black and 11% Hispanic.
Allen also is connected to another of Texas’ recent mass shootings. Patrick Crusius lived there in 2019 before he posted a racist screed online that warned of a “Hispanic invasion” and drove to El Paso, where he opened fire at a Walmart, killing 23. Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and weapons charges in February.