Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is adding manpower to gang investigations surrounding white nationalist groups in wake of the El Paso mass shooting that left 22 people dead.
Abbott said Wednesday that Texas will also create a new domestic terrorism task force to help "root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence in our state” and study white nationalist groups.
Authorities say 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, who was living in Allen, confessed to the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart and told investigators that he targeted Mexicans during the attack. He's also suspected of posting a racist, anti-immigrant screed online before opening fire in the Texas border city. Federal prosecutors are weighing hate-crime charges against Crusius.
The task force will be made up of a group of experts from different disciplines. They will come up with strategies to maximize law enforcement's ability to protect people against acts of domestic terrorism. One of the members is a captain with the Collin County Sheriff's Office.
The governor's announcement on Wednesday comes on the same day that the FBI and the El Paso Police Department released the crime scene back to Walmart. For now, the fence that was erected will remain in place. The store remains closed. Armed guards contracted by Walmart will patrol the perimeter for the time being.
Danny Defenbaugh is the former FBI special agent in charge of the Dallas field office.
“The lone terrorist, if you will, or lone wolf is always the worst type,” he said.
Investigators have not said if there are any signs the suspected gunman was part of any hate group. But the governor is forming a task force that will address those groups.
Many members of the task force are state officials and department heads. It also includes a Collin County sheriff's captain where the suspected gunman is from.
“Anytime they can get everyone together in the same sandbox and play with the same toys, you’re going to have accomplishment,” Defenbaugh said.
Defenbaugh says groups with white nationalist ties seem to be operating out in the open more.
“I actually think that it has become more public,” he said. “I think that you’ve got a number of individuals who have become more brazen.”
Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger says the agency will assign more than a dozen additional people to anti-gang centers following Abbott's directive.
The task force group will hold its first roundtable meeting with Gov. Abbott on August 30.