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What we know about the shooter who killed 8 people in a mall in Allen, Texas

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

NPR has learned more about the man who used an assault-style rifle to kill eight people at a mall in Allen, Texas, on Saturday. He had been discharged from the Army for mental health reasons. KERA's Katherine Hobbs has been following this story and joins us from Dallas. Hi, Katherine.

KATHERINE HOBBS, BYLINE: Hi there.

PFEIFFER: There's been a lot of speculation on social media about the shooter and his background, but what have you been able to confirm?

HOBBS: So far, I can tell you that Garcia, who was 33, entered the Army in June of 2008. He was terminated three months later without completing his initial entry training, and he wasn't assigned a specific job or a military occupational specialty. A Defense Department official has told NPR that Army staff quickly identified he was a problem. Now, we don't really know what that problem was, but the official did confirm for us that he was discharged for mental health reasons. Questions now remain about where and how he got the gun.

PFEIFFER: Since the discharge was 2008, that means about 15 years have passed. What can you tell us about that passage of time since?

HOBBS: What we've been able to confirm is that his most recent employment records show that he completed level two training in 2017 to work with Champion National Security as a security guard. That company is based in Arlington, another Dallas suburb. We don't know if he actually worked as a security guard, though. And we also know that his most recent address listed is a Dallas home.

PFEIFFER: Katherine, you reported this morning that police might be looking into some of his beliefs, that they may have played a role in the motive. What have you learned about his ideology, if any?

HOBBS: So since then, I've been able to confirm with police that they do suspect his ideology might be linked to his motive. You know, of course, this is an ongoing investigation, but the evidence does suggest that Garcia held very far-right extremist beliefs. And at the time of his death, he was wearing a patch with the acronym RWDS, which stands for Right-Wing Death Squad. It's the same patch that was worn by Proud Boys member Jeremy Bertino, who pled guilty to seditious conspiracy during the January 6 breach at the Capitol. However, we don't have any links showing that Garcia is directly related to the Proud Boys. His social media accounts, though, do express neo-Nazi and white supremacist views, and most of his victims were of Korean or Indian descent and also children. Officials are now interviewing his friends, family, neighbors and anyone else who might have information - see what else we can learn about him.

PFEIFFER: The people of Allen, Texas, are the latest community to have to cope with the aftermath of a mass shooting. What are you hearing from them?

HOBBS: So I was at a vigil last night at the scene of the shooting, and I talked to, like, nine different people. And five of them told me that they wanted stricter gun laws so that the bad guys don't have access to guns. Others said they don't know what needs to be done but that they want their elected officials to figure something out because these shootings are - just keep happening. People I spoke with also said that there needs to be better access to mental health care. They're tired of the stigma surrounding asking for help, and they want to make sure that people are getting intervention before they reach this point.

PFEIFFER: And if those are longer-term goals, then what kind of near-term things do they tell you might help them?

HOBBS: They said that they want closure. They want to know what led the shooter to what they're calling a senseless act of violence. I spoke with Cesar Leao who witnessed the shooting.

CESAR LEAO: Something in my heart just felt like to come back, say goodbye, or just - I don't know - pray for them and for the family to find strength.

HOBBS: And last night people were rallying around each other. There was a speaker there who asked how many people at the vigil had no personal connection to the victims, and more than half of the mourners raised their hands. So far, they set up a family assistance center in Allen. They're offering counseling and other services. And schools have specialized counselors on campuses. Businesses are pitching in to help out. And when I was on the scene, a hotel kindly let me borrow their lobby and Wi-Fi to work out of. And during the couple hours that I was there, many people came in and offered to foot the bill for victims' families and witnesses who were staying there.

PFEIFFER: That's KERA's Katherine Hobbs in Dallas. Thank you.

HOBBS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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