This is the curious case of the Mexican white supremacist mass shooter – and what he says about the United States of America.
When the gunman who perpetrated America’s latest horrific mass shooting was named Mauricio Garcia, many jumped to conclusions.
There were immediate suggestions that the Hispanic name of the killer, who struck at a shopping mall in Allen, Texas, meant he was probably a violent illegal immigrant, perhaps linked to Mexican cartels.
However, it soon became clear that something more complicated, and unexpected, was behind the attack.
Photographs emerged of Garcia’s large Nazi tattoos, along with his online rants against black and Jewish people – he was, it turned out, a Hispanic white supremacist.
Despite the apparently categorical evidence, some refused to believe it, maintaining that he was “not white”, and sticking to the original narrative.
Garcia posted several images of his Nazi tattoos on a Russian social media page
On social media, influential figures claimed the seemingly incontrovertible fact – that Garcia was a neo-Nazi – was an elaborate misinformation operation and helped spread a conspiracy theory to millions.
Garcia, 33, was a former security guard and US Army trainee, who was kicked out during basic training.
On Saturday, May 7, he donned a tactical vest and brought eight weapons, including an AR15-style assault rifle, to the Allen Premium Outlets mall in a suburb of Dallas.
He then randomly murdered eight people, including three children, before being killed by a police officer.
Eight people were killed in the shooting at Allen Premium Outlets mall in Dallas – Photo: Reuters
It was subsequently reported, by the New York Times, that police had found a social media profile, believed to be Garcia’s, which contained “hate-filled rants”.
A researcher for Bellingcat, the investigative research agency, then located the profile on the Russian website Odnoklassniki.
The profile image was a smiley face with a Hitler moustache and there were photographs of Garcia’s swastika and SS tattoos.
Garcia described in detail how he had become what he himself called a “full-blown white supremacist”.
But that failed to convince many, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican congresswoman.
She wrote on Twitter: “Only dumb white people would believe that a Mexican gang member is killing people for white supremacy.”
Ann Coulter, the conservative author, said: “MEDIA: Texas shooter is Mauricio Garcia, 2nd generation immigrant…and white supremacist. So we could have been spared this horror if only someone had told the shooter: ‘Mauricio, you’re not white!'”
The evidence apparently also failed to sway Elon Musk, who wrote: “How do we know that was actually his social media account? Seems very odd that he would have a Russian social media account when he doesn’t speak Russian.
“Didn’t the story come from Bellingcat, which literally specializes in psychological operations? I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but this is either the weirdest story ever or a very bad psyop!”
“Psyops” are used by the military to influence what people believe.
Mr. Musk, the Twitter owner, whose posts were viewed by millions, later acknowledged: “It might all be true, but such an incongruent set of claims deserves extreme scrutiny.”
The same day, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed Garcia was indeed a white supremacist.
Garcia’s tactical vest bore a patch saying “RWDS” – “Right-wing death squad – and he used a Hitler smiley as his social media profile image
Garcia had neo-Nazi tattoos and had been wearing a patch saying “RWDS”, standing for “Right-wing death squad”.
“We do know that he had neo-Nazi ideation,” said Hank Sibley, the department’s regional director. “He had patches, he had tattoos, even his signature verified that. That’s one thing we do know.”
That appeared to put an end to the conspiracy theory that Garcia was not a neo-Nazi, although it will continue to circulate on social media and be believed by many.
Hispanic ‘racist fringe’
The confirmation of Garcia’s extreme political beliefs also opened up another question about whether far-Right ideology could be on the rise among Hispanics in America.
In 2017 the Daily Stormer, the leading neo-Nazi website, launched a Spanish-language edition called “El Daily Stormer” and said it had a “big Spanish-speaking population” on its forums.
According to Tanya Hernandez, author of Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias it is the case that “in Latin America, white supremacy is alive and well.”
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University, told Axios there was a “mutation that takes place as the [Hispanic] racist fringe tries to become more mainstream”.
Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said: “This is a very complicated aspect of Right-wing extremism.
“We would assume that everyone is white in a Caucasian sense. But Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race, and so a lot of Hispanics identify as being white.”