The second-deadliest mass shooting in the United States this year occurred in a shopping mall in an affluent suburb of Texas, killing eight people and prompting police to question whether the gunman was motivated by right-wing extremism.
Authorities have not revealed why the gunman, 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia, opened fire on Saturday at Allen Premium Outlets, roughly 25 miles north of Dallas.
Garcia, who was killed on the site by an Allen police officer who was responding to a call nearby when the shooting began, was wearing an insignia that authorities suspect is affiliated with extremist groups, according to a senior law enforcement source involved with the case.
Authorities suspect Garcia shared material on social media that was associated with neo-Nazism and White supremacy, and investigators have discovered this, the person said.
The Gun Violence Archive estimates that the US has experienced at least 201 mass shootings in the first five months of this year. The nonprofit organization and the associated press both define mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people—excluding the shooter—are shot.
The slaughter in Allen is the second deadliest incident so far this year, trailing only the 11-person killing in Monterey Park, California, in January.
Aishwarya Thatikonda, who was visiting the mall with a friend, was among the eight people slain in Allen, according to the associated press affiliate WFAA.
Thatikonda was an engineer who lived in nearby McKinney, but her family is mourning her death from India, according to a family source. According to the spokesman, the family intends to have her body returned to India. The associated press has contacted India’s consulate general in Houston for more information.
The attack also claimed the life of Christian LaCour, a 20-year-old mall security guard. LaCour was described as “a sweet, caring young man who was greatly loved by our family,” according to his sister Brianna Smith.
“The kind of person who would just walk into the store and everyone in the room would light up because he was there,” said Max Weiss, a mall store employee.
The senseless killing is just another mass tragedy in a public location where many Americans felt comfortable, such as schools, supermarkets, parks, and Fourth of July parades.
It also happened just three days after a shooter killed one woman and injured four others in an Atlanta medical facility, and just a few weeks before Texas marks a year when a gunman massacred 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Police recovered many other firearms in Garcia’s car, in addition to an AR-15 style firearm and another weapon found with him, according to a law enforcement source.
Neighbors of an address matching Garcia’s parents told the associated press that police and the FBI arrived about an hour after the incident and blocked off the street for several hours.
Garcia was the shooter, according to two neighbors, who were surprised and upset.
“I know nothing happened on our block, but it sends a chill down your spine knowing the suspect lives a few houses away,” Moises Carreon, a neighbor, said.
Garcia, according to the law enforcement source, had been staying in some kind of transitory housing. According to the Dallas Morning News, the suspect was staying at an extended-stay motel in Dallas.
As a guard, the gunman had received firearms training
Garcia has worked for at least three security firms and had completed hours of firearms competency training in recent years, according to a Texas Department of Public Safety database.
Requests for comment were not immediately returned by any of the companies.
Based on his profile in the Texas Online Private Security database, the gunman was licensed to work as a security guard in Texas from April 2016 until April 2020, when his license expired.
Garcia underwent Level II and Level III security training as part of his job. According to Jonah Nathan, vice president of Ranger Guard, a security guard service in Texas that is not affiliated with Garcia’s employers, the former covers Texas security laws and the latter, which is required for all commissioned security officers and personal protection officers in Texas, includes firearm training and the demonstration of firearm proficiency.
Garcia took a different firearms proficiency training course in 2018, which required six hours of continuing education, according to the database.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety website and state statutes, private security guards in Texas are subject to background checks and are disqualified if they have committed certain crimes such as assault, burglary, or sexual offenses, among others.
They are also ineligible if they were dishonorably discharged from the United States military, deemed unfit by a court of law, or had to register as a sex offender. Garcia’s license lapsed for unknown reasons.
It was the scariest moment of my life
Witness reports, videos, and images obtained by the associate press provide a vivid picture of the gunman’s terror and destruction before he was slain by an officer who, according to authorities, was already on the scene when the shooting occurred.
Garcia began firing after getting out of his car in the parking area outside the mall’s H&M store, according to a video acquired by the associated press. Another eyewitness video shows customers, some of them carrying young children, shouting, running, and crouching behind rows of automobiles as the gunfire rings out.
Steven Spainhouer hurried to the scene after receiving a phone call from his son, who works at H&M, and took refuge in a break room. When he arrived at the store’s parking lot, he “began counting the bodies on the ground… one, two, three, five, six, seven bodies.”
“The first female I approached… “I felt for a pulse, drew her head to the side, and she didn’t have a face,” Spainhouer told the associated press on Sunday.
“I saw mothers and fathers covering their children’s eyes in tears, children holding their hands up, and people fleeing for their lives,” he claimed.
Spainhouer told the associated press that he discovered a surviving infant whose mother had been struck and killed while shielding him from bullets.
“When I rolled the mother over, he came out,” Spainhouer explained to the affiliate. “He was covered from head to toe as if blood had been poured on him.”
Many store employees rushed to conceal patrons in storage rooms or back passageways as the shooter entered and made his way through the mall, according to various eyewitness accounts. Shoppers shouted warnings to one another and fled.
The 18-year-old store clerk, Weiss, called hiding in two rooms at the back of the store with employees and customers “the most terrifying moment of my life.”
Weiss stated, “I immediately reached out to both of my parents and let them know I was fine. “However, I had other matters to attend to. I had to check on the store, the staff, and the customers to make sure everyone was okay.
A witness in a cosmetic business on the northeast corner of the building said he saw the shooter pass by and fire his gun. A pursuing police officer passed him moments later, rounded the curve, and fired ahead of him “down range,” he added.
The associated press obtained a photo of the gunman, who was dressed in black and tactical gear, resting on the ground after being shot outside a Fatburger restaurant.