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Back-to-Back Mass Shootings Kill 29 as Authorities Confront Domestic Terror


Back-to-Back Mass Shootings Kill 29 as Authorities Confront Domestic Terror

The shootings in Texas and Ohio that killed at least 29 people over the weekend left authorities searching for how to confront the challenges posed by mass violence and domestic terrorism, especially attacks driven by white-nationalist ideologies.

Violence committed by white men inspired by an extremist ideology represents an increasing number of domestic terrorism cases, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Of roughly 850 current domestic terrorism cases, 40% involve racially motivated violent extremism and a majority of those cases involve white supremacists, according to the FBI.

El Paso ranks among the deadliest shootings

Sutherland Springs, Texas


Number of mass public shootings*

Fatalities in mass public shootings*

*Mass shootings are the mass killings that involve guns, with four or more people killed, not including the assailant. †Year to date

Sources: News reports (deadliest shootings); Associated Press/USA Today/Northeastern University Mass Murder Database (killings, shootings by year)

Saturday’s attack in majority Hispanic El Paso, Texas, which left at least 20 people dead and 26 injured, was allegedly committed by a 21-year-old white man who was believed to have posted a manifesto of sorts that espoused anti-immigrant and white-nationalist ideology on a popular far-right website not long before the shooting.

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Assailants in other recent attacks, such as at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., also espoused white-nationalist beliefs.

“We are most concerned about lone offenders, primarily using firearms, as these lone offenders represent the dominant trend for lethal domestic terrorists,” Michael McGarrity, the FBI’s top counterterrorism official, recently told lawmakers. “Frequently, these individuals act without a clear group affiliation or guidance, making them challenging to identify, investigate and disrupt.”

As of Sunday afternoon, the motive of the shooter in Dayton, Ohio, who killed nine people and injured 27, was unclear, authorities said. The man was shot dead at the scene by police.

Preventing—and understanding—such crimes has been vexing for federal law enforcement officials, who had in recent years been more focused on the threat posed by radical Islam and homegrown terrorists who pledge fealty to the Islamic State. But now, Mr. McGarrity said, that approach is changing as domestic-terrorism related arrests and killings have surpassed those involving Islamic extremism in recent years.

Evidence markers of shell casings lined the street Sunday at the scene of the deadly shooting in the Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio.


tom russo/Shutterstock

The young, white men who have largely perpetrated the recent series of mass shootings are typically not on law enforcement’s radar or part of any larger organized criminal enterprise, experts said.

The ideology they often claim adherence to appears on shadowy websites like 8chan, which describes itself as “The darkest reaches of the internet.” Moreover, undercover operations that allow the FBI to ensnare Islamic jihadists who talked in web chat rooms about carrying out attacks in the name of Islam aren’t always a way to catch young white supremacists, who may purchase weapons legally without notice.

Critics and some experts who study U.S. extremism also said the FBI has been too slow to divert some of the vast resources it devotes to combating Islamic terrorism to domestic hate groups. The bureau expended considerable resources on white supremacy in the 1990s but changed its focus after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“As the Justice Department adapated counterterrorism as their number one priority, we weren’t looking at all terrorism equally,” said Michael German a former FBI agent who worked undercover in white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in California and Washington during the 1990s.

Write to Dan Frosch at, Valerie Bauerlein at and Sadie Gurman at

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