The FBI issued a new warning Sunday that the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that left at least 30 people dead over the weekend could spur copycat attacks by domestic extremists.
“The FBI remains concerned that U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could become inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence,” the bureau said in a statement. “The FBI asks the American public to report to law enforcement any suspicious activity that is observed either in person or online.”
FBI director Christopher Wray has since instructed senior FBI officials to create a new threat assessment examining mass shootings, according to ABC News. In recent years, the U.S has seen an uptick in domestic terror attacks, active shooter events and crimes fueled by racial hatred.
On Saturday, gunman Patrick Crusius allegedly entered a crowded Walmart store in El Paso and killed a total of 22 people. Police said Crusius, 21, drove nearly 10 hours from Allen, Texas, to commit the heinous attack on the border city, telling authorities he hoped to kill “as many Mexicans as possible.” A four-page manifesto posted to right-wing forum 8chan contained similar racist, anti-immigrant language.
John Bash, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, said federal authorities are investigating the incident as an act of “domestic terrorism,” and are also considering bringing hate crime and federal weapons charges against the suspect.
“We’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is to deliver swift and certain justice,” Bash told reporters.
A motive hasn’t yet been determined in the Dayton shooting, which left nine people dead and more than a dozen injured. The shooter, Connor Betts, was fatally shot by police.
At a congressional hearing in May, an FBI official said the agency is investigating almost 850 possible domestic terrorists across the U.S. FBI Director Wray also revealed during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month that a large chunk of the domestic terror-related arrests made by the agency since October have been tied to white supremacy.
“I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well,” he said.
Wray added that the agency is “aggressively” pursuing and investigating domestic terror and hate crimes, both growing issues he said the agency takes “extremely seriously.”
In its most recent report, the U.S. Secret Service found that 41 percent of active shooter incidents in 2018 had a pre-selected target. Moreover, the report said 78 percent of the attackers exhibited “concerning” behaviors prior to their acts of violence.
These include “social media posts with alarming content , Stalking and harassing behaviors, Escalating anger or aggressive behavior, Increased depression, Changes in behavior and appearance, Increased drug use, Expressions of suicidal ideations, and Erratic behavior,” according to the report.
Authorities continue to investigate both shootings amid renewed calls for gun reform.
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