The gunman who opened fire at a Dallas-area outlet mall, killing eight people and wounding several others, was forced out of the military 15 years ago because of mental health concerns, including his difficulty coping with stressful changes, according to two U.S. officials.
After the gunman, Mauricio Garcia, entered basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in June 2008, Army officials were concerned about his mental health early on and said he also had an adjustment disorder, the officials said. An adjustment disorder is characterized by significant emotional distress and is a common mental health disorder among active duty service members.
Garcia, then 18, was supposed to be training to become an infantry soldier, but he was expelled within three months without completing training, the officials said. He was removed prior to receiving rifle training, according to the officials.
While in the Army, Garcia never communicated a threat publicly or engaged in a crime, and officials say they believed at the time that they didn’t have any requirement to notify authorities about their concerns.
Further details of Garcia’s brief military stint come after the Army said Monday that he had been “terminated” without completing his initial entry training because of a physical or mental condition.
He was never deployed nor did he receive any awards, said Heather Hagan, an Army spokeswoman.
“We do not provide characterization of discharge for any soldier,” she added.
What motivated Garcia, 33, to bring multiple weapons, including an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun, to Allen Premium Outlets in Allen on Saturday afternoon and indiscriminately shoot at shoppers remains under investigation. Among those killed during the roughly four-minute rampage were a 3-year-old boy and his parents.
At a news conference Tuesday, federal and state officials said the shooter had no criminal history and was able to legally purchase the eight firearms that were recovered from the scene. Officials were running background checks on the weapons to determine if they had been used in other crimes.
Hank Sibley, a regional director at the Texas Department of Public Safety, said that investigators are looking into Garcia’s separation from the military and that information about his “fitness for duty” would be forthcoming. Sibley added that Garcia had been working as a licensed security guard for several firms, but was not recently active.
Garcia’s apparent mental health struggles and extremist beliefs were shared on the Russian social networking site OK.ru, which he had been using to document his life. The posts did not have any likes and were not shared by other users.
In the weeks before the attack, Garcia posted more than two dozen photos of Allen Premium Outlets and surrounding areas, including several screenshots of Google location information, seemingly monitoring the mall at its busiest times.
Sibley said the shooter had targeted the mall, but not any specific type of person based on who was killed.
The social media site is part of what investigators are looking at, a senior law enforcement source has said.
Federal, state and local law enforcement officials are also analyzing evidence seized at two locations in Dallas: Garcia’s family’s home in a northeast neighborhood and a hotel north of downtown where he had been staying.
Agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were tracing at least four weapons found at the scene, a law enforcement source said, including five weapons found in his vehicle.
Electronic receipts posted on the shooter’s social media account appear to show he spent more than $3,200 on three types of firearms last June through a Dallas gun distributor.
The evidence that has been gathered suggests the shooter subscribed to a “mishmash” of ideologies, said a law enforcement official familiar with details of the investigation. But the official cautioned it may take weeks or months for agents to analyze the information to gain a more complete picture of his ideology.
An officer killed Garcia at the scene. Officials said he was wearing a patch on his chest with the initials “rwds,” which stands for “Right Wing Death Squad,” a popular meme among far-right extremist groups.
On social media, Garcia’s account included a photo of himself in a flak vest with an “rwds” patch and another post with a series of shirtless pictures showing visible white power tattoos, including SS lightning bolts and a swastika.
Other posts included hate-filled rants against Jews, women and racial minorities, and referred to extremist online forums, such as 4chan, and content from white nationalists, including white nationalist provocateur Nick Fuentes.
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