By Josh Campbell, Ed Lavandera, Holly Yan, Christina Maxouris, Sharif Paget and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN
The man who opened fire Saturday at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, killing eight people and wounding at least seven others was identified as 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Sunday.
Authorities have not yet zeroed in on a specific motive, but investigators uncovered an extensive social media presence by the gunman, including a possible link to right-wing extremism, a senior law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told CNN.
As the probe continues, another American community is left grieving in the aftermath of another mass shooting at a public place that once felt safe — from supermarkets, schools and Fourth of July parades.
The massacre unfolded in the same week a gunman opened fire in a medical facility in Atlanta, killing one woman and wounding four others. And it came just weeks before Texas will mark a year since 19 students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde.
The gunman in Saturday’s massacre was killed by an Allen Police Department officer who was at the mall on an unrelated call, police said. Investigators believe the shooter was acting alone.
Geoffrey Keaton was eating at the mall’s Fatburger restaurant Saturday with his daughter when they heard gunshots approaching. They were rushed to a corridor and then outside, where Keaton said he saw people down on the sidewalk.
“It was traumatic,” he told CNN Sunday evening. “It was fast. It was definitely not anything that you expect or (are) prepared for because who prepares for a thing like that?”
“You don’t expect to go to the mall and lose your life,” Keaton said.
There have been 202 mass shootings across the US within the first five months of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Both the nonprofit and CNN define mass shootings as those in which four or more people are shot, excluding the shooter.
One of the victims in Saturday’s massacre was identified by his family as Christian LaCour.
“Christian was a sweet, caring young man who was loved greatly by our family,” his older sister Brianna Smith shared with CNN.
At least nine people were rushed to trauma facilities, two of whom died, Allen Fire Chief Jonathan Boyd said.
As of Sunday afternoon, four of those patients were being treated at a local medical center, including three in critical condition and one in fair condition, Allen police said. One patient who was transferred to a Level I trauma center was in fair condition, police said. A patient transferred to a children’s hospital was also in fair condition, while the ninth patient was also treated at a local hospital, police said.
Investigators probe possible link to right-wing extremism
Authorities are investigating whether the gunman was motivated by right-wing extremism, a senior law enforcement source familiar with the investigation tells CNN.
While authorities have not determined a specific motive, the source said the deceased suspect was found with an insignia on his clothing that read “RWDS,” which authorities believe may stand for “Right Wing Death Squad.”
Some members of extremist groups have been seen in public in recent years with patches bearing the letters “RWDS,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors and reports on extremism.
A photo obtained by CNN shows what appears to be the gunman lying on the ground after being shot, with an AR-15-style firearm nearby. He is clad in black body armor and appears to have several extra magazines strapped in his chest gear.
In addition to the AR-15-style weapon found near him, Garcia had at least one other weapon on him when he was fatally shot in front of the mall, the senior law enforcement source said. Police also found multiple weapons in his car.
Garcia underwent firearms proficiency training for his work as a commissioned security officer, according to the Texas Online Private Security database, which is maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Garcia was approved to work as a security guard in Texas from April 2016 until April 2020, when his license expired, according to the database. His profile shows he worked for at least three security companies. None of those companies immediately responded to requests for comment.
According to the database, Garcia received Level II and Level III security training. The former covers security laws in Texas; 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, according to Jonah Nathan, vice president of Ranger Guard, a security guard service in Texas not affiliated with Garcia’s employers.
In 2018, Garcia also completed a separate firearms proficiency training course that requires six hours of continuing education, according to the Texas DPS database.
Private security guards in Texas undergo background checks and are disqualified if they have committed certain crimes such as assault, burglary or sexual offenses, among others, according to the Texas DPS website and state codes.
They are also disqualified if they have been dishonorably discharged from the US military; have been found incompetent by a court of law; or have been required to register as a sex offender. It’s unclear why Garcia’s license expired.
Garcia had been living in some form of transient lodging, according to the law enforcement source. The Dallas Morning News reported the suspect had been staying in an extended stay hotel in Dallas.
‘One, two, three, five, six, seven bodies’
Steven Spainhouer’s son was working at Allen Premium Outlets when he received the phone call no father ever wants to hear.
“He said, ‘Dad, we have a shooting … I’m pulling people into the break room, and we’re going to lock the door,'” Spainhouer told CNN on Sunday.
The former Army and police officer raced to the scene, called 911 and “started counting the bodies on the ground … one, two, three, five, six, seven bodies.”
Spainhouer said he saw devastation unlike anything he had seen in the Army.
“I never imagined in 100 years I would be thrust into the position of being the first responder on the site to take care of people,” Spainhouer told CNN affiliate KTVT.
“The first girl I walked up to … I felt for a pulse, pulled her head to the side, and she had no face.”
He said one child survived after his mother shielded him from the bullets. But the mother was struck and killed.
“When I rolled the mother over, he came out,” Spainhouer told KTVT. “He was covered from head to toe, like somebody had poured blood on him.”
He said he performed CPR on three victims, but none of them could be saved.
“It’s unfathomable to see the carnage,” Spainhouer said. “It’s tough when you see a family that’s out shopping, having fun, get wiped off the face of the earth.”
Witness video from Saturday showed panicked shoppers in the parking lot of Allen Premium Outlets screaming and ducking behind rows of cars. Inside the sprawling complex, employees, shoppers and families with young children bolted and hid in storage areas or back hallways, witnesses told CNN.
Witness Kingsley Ezeh said he was walking inside the mall when people behind him suddenly began running.
“I turned around and I saw two ladies rushing towards me, and then one was like ‘Someone’s shooting! Someone’s shooting!'” he said.
Behind the fleeing women, Ezeh said he could see a man holding his neck, which “blood (was) just dripping down.”
Ezeh huddled with others in the back of a store for about an hour before police came to get them, he said. Other witnesses reported sheltering in place for up to two hours as police cleared the scene.
Kimberly Blakey and her 14-year-old daughter were among the crowd trying to flee the parking lot during the attack.
“The shooting happened over and over and over again. It was nonstop,” she said.
In her haste to get away, Blakey initially drove toward the gunfire before her daughter told her to turn around. But as she drove toward the exit, she said, they became stuck behind a scrum of other cars trying to do the same.
That’s when she felt her car get hit twice by gunfire.
“I told my daughter to get down,” Blakey said. “She did, and I could hear her start praying.”
The pair managed to get out of the parking lot and didn’t stop until they got home.
“We were on a mission to get out of there,” Blakey said.
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CNN’s Ashley Killough, Keith Allen, Andy Rose, Sara Smart, Paradise Afshar, John Miller, Yahya Abou-Ghazala, Bob Ortega, Curt Devine, Michelle Watson, Phil Gast and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.