America’s deadly epidemic of school shootings continued last week, when William Atchison, a 21-year-old gas station attendant, disguised himself as a student and went to Aztec High School in northwestern New Mexico to conduct a shooting spree, something he had fantasized about for some time.
Atchison killed two students, Casey Jordan Marquez and Francisco Fernandez, and shot at a number of others before killing himself, a shocking and tragic turn of events for the people of Aztec. Atchison had left a short on-line message detailing his intentions but investigators and journalists soon discovered that Atchison had for years dreamed of shootings and mass killings, especially school shootings, and for years had posted messages on such subjects on a variety of online forums.
Reporters for The Daily Beast, moreover, discovered that Atchison’s dark on-line world extended beyond those fantasies of school violence to include what they described as “white supremacist, pro-Trump” themes. By his own admission, Atchison posted on the controversial anonymous message board 4chan, as well as on the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer.
Did Atchison fully subscribe to white supremacy, as opposed to being fascinated with the death and destruction associated with the Nazi regime? Various other would-be spree shooters, such as the Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, became interested in Nazism for this reason, without becoming full-fledged white supremacists.
An examination of Atchison’s available on-line messages suggests that his white supremacist beliefs were sincere—and that in particular he had developed an obsession with violence against Jews almost as great as his obsession with school violence. Had Atchison lived in a city with a significant Jewish population, it is even possible the tragedy he caused might have taken an anti-Semitic form instead of the shape that it did.
Atchison was an avid on-line gamer and his progression may well have been one that birthed many other young white supremacist websites: from the on-line gaming subculture to forums like 4chan, which contain many racists and white supremacists among their members, to explicitly white supremacist venues like the Daily Stormer.
Atchison’s posts and images reveal familiarity with alt right-style white supremacist phrases and memes, including phrases such as “the goyim know,” “shut it down,” and “shoahed,” as well as more traditional white supremacist concepts such as “rahowa” and 14/88. “The goyim know” and “shut it down,” are anti-Semitic phrases portraying evil Jewish conspirators panicking when white people see through one of their ostensible plots. Atchison was well-versed in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and even uploaded the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which portrays a malicious Jewish conspiracy, to his Pastebin account.
Atchison also had a habit of creating swastikas within video games—such as using a gun in a first-person shooter to “shoot” a swastika into a wall or side of a building. “I can’t stop drawing swastikas to save my own life,” he confessed in March 2017, and screenshots posted from his game provide ample evidence. He also often created computer characters on Nazi themes; in one game, for example, his characters included AdolfHitler, TheodorMorel (a doctor of Hitler’s), HermanGoring, JoeGoebbelSS, IlseKoch, and SamHyde1488.
It is Atchison’s account on Steam, the popular on-line gaming site, which contains some of the most disturbing evidence of his racism and anti-Semitism. Atchison posted multiple screen shots to Steam from game mods that he had used to insert Nazi propaganda, anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theories and other types of hate—including African-Americans being lynched and comments suggesting “lgbt people should be sent to extermination camps.”
But he reserved particular wrath for Jews, such as when he claimed in 2016 on Steam that “I hate the fucking jews. I always have, I always will. They are not the Israelites, they are not God’s chosen people either. They are the evil, mamzer Edomites that Joshua was told to kill to the last man.”
Atchison frequently manipulated video games such as Grand Theft Auto to create scenes—from which Atchison would post screenshots to his account—of people killing Jews or people intended to appear to be Jews. These graphic images would frequently be accompanied by equally graphic language from Atchison, such as “KILL THE JEW,” “RUN OVER THE JEW,” “toten der jude,” “FUCKING DIE JEW,” “JEW-HUNTING,” “RUN LITTLE JEW!!!”
There is no evidence that Steam sought to remove these images containing anti-Semitic violence and, indeed, the images are still viewable as of this writing. Some Steam users were apparently not so happy with Atchison’s over-the-top violent nature, however. Atchison even posted one screenshot of someone abruptly ending a game session with him, stating “Terrorism jokes aren’t too funny.” Atchison’s response was “UR A CUCK DIE.”
Two children died when Atchison decided to turn his twisted violent fantasies into reality.