Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2019

Murder and Extremism
  • In 2019, domestic extremists killed at least 42 people in the United States in 17 separate incidents. This number makes 2019 the sixth deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970.
     
  • The 42 total deaths in 2019 is less than 2018’s total (53) but higher than 2017’s (41).
     
  • As is typically the case, the extremist-related murders of 2019 were overwhelmingly (90%) linked to right-wing extremists. All but one of the incidents had ties to right-wing extremism. 
     
  • While 2019 was the first year since 2012 that ADL tracked no killings linked to domestic Islamist extremism, a deadly shooting incident at Naval Air Station Pensacola in December appears to be a foreign terrorist incident.
     
  • Extremist-related killings in 2019 were dominated by the white supremacist shooting spree at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in August, which left 22 people dead and 24 more wounded. This attack, intended to target Hispanic people, was the deadliest attack in modern times against the Hispanic community in the United States.
     
  • For the eighth year in a row, domestic extremists overwhelmingly used firearms to commit mass killings. Almost half of the people killed by extremists in the past 10 years were killed in mass murders, all but one of which involved the use of firearms.

Every year, people with ties to a variety of extreme movements and causes kill people in the United States; ADL’s Center on Extremism tracks these murders. Extremists regularly commit murders in the service of their ideology, in the service of a group or gang they may belong to, or while engaging in traditional, non-ideological criminal activities. We include both ideological and non-ideological murders in this report.

Dozens of people died in 2019 at the hands of people with connections to extreme ideologies, ranging from white supremacy to Black Hebrew Israelism. Some of these murders received little attention or publicity, while others dominated national news coverage.

The preliminary tally of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism (COE) reveals that domestic extremists—American citizens or long-term residents with connections to some sort of extreme movement or cause—killed at least 42 people in the United States in 2019. This represents a decrease from the 53 extremist-related murders the COE documented in 2018, though still greater than the 41 such murders in 2017.

Report

With 42 deaths, 2019 is the sixth-deadliest year for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970, according to COE records.  This is part of a general trend of increasingly lethal attacks by domestic extremists in the United States. The past five years (2015-2019) includes four of the deadliest on record.

 

Report

Extremist-related killings are rare compared to the total homicides in the U.S. each year. However, extremist killings can have a disproportionate effect on communities, especially when they take the form of a hate crime or a terrorist attack.  The citizens of El Paso, Texas, experienced this form of tragedy in August 2019 when white supremacist Patrick Crusius traveled across Texas from the Dallas area to El Paso, a West Texas border city with a majority Hispanic population, to attack the Hispanic community. Crusius opened fire with an assault weapon outside an El Paso Walmart, killing 22 people (13 American citizens, eight Mexican citizens and one German citizen) and injuring 24 more. In a manifesto posted online, Crusius claimed that his attack was a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”[1]

It is important to remember that extremist murders represent merely the tip of a pyramid of extremist violence in the United States. For every person killed by an extremist, many more are wounded or injured in attempted murders and assaults. Extremists engage in a wide variety of violent and criminal acts related to their causes, including terrorist plots and conspiracies, hate crime assaults, terroristic threats, campaigns of intimidation and harassment and other offenses.[2]

As is the case most years, lethal extremist violence in 2019 was dominated by right-wing extremism. All but four of the 42 murders documented in this report had ties to forms of right-wing extremism, including white supremacy, anti-government extremism, and right-wing conspiracy theories.

Extremist-related shooting sprees are increasingly a problem in the United States.

One of the reasons so many people died at the hands of extremists in 2019: the perpetrators used firearms.  In 2019, 36 of the 42 people killed by extremists (86%) were murdered with guns. In the past 10 years, 315 of the 435 people (72%) killed in the U.S. by domestic extremists were shot to death.

In the United States, firearms are widely available and relatively inexpensive. Their use requires no real training or technical skill, yet they are extremely deadly. It should come as no surprise that there is a connection between extremist violence and gun violence.  Almost every year, most extremist-related deaths are the result of shootings.

Firearms Use

The years 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 all saw major extremist-related shooting sprees at the hands of right-wing extremists, left-wing extremists or domestic Islamist extremists, including shooting sprees in San Bernardino, Chattanooga, Charleston, Dallas, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Parkland, and El Paso. 
 

In fact, the death toll for 2019 could have been considerably higher if one of the attacks had unfolded as the perpetrator intended. In April 2019, white supremacist John Earnest entered a synagogue in Poway, California, and opened fire, killing one person and wounding several others before his gun jammed and he fled the vicinity.

Earnest’s attack could thus have been far deadlier than it actually was.  In a manifesto Earnest allegedly posted online before his assault, he cited previous white supremacist mass shooters Brenton Tarrant and Robert Bowers (who targeted, respectively, mosques and a synagogue) as inspirations. “I feel no remorse,” he stated in his manifesto, adding (prior to the attack), “I only wish I killed more.”[3]

Extremist-related shooting sprees-- and indeed mass casualty shooting events of all kinds-- are increasingly a problem in the United States. While there is no consensus as to what constitutes a “mass killing” in the United States, one common definition is an event that leaves four or more people dead. By that measurement, 18 of the mass killings in the U.S. over the past 10 years (2010-19) were committed by right-wing extremists, domestic Islamist extremists or left-wing extremists.  Of those incidents, 13 appear to have been committed for ideological reasons, while five were rooted in motives that were either non-ideological or unknown.[4]

Firearms were used in all but one of these 18 mass killings, usually as the sole type of weapon. In these 18 incidents, 180 people died—166 because of gunshot wounds.  Those 166 deaths comprise 38% of all extremist-related killings of the past 10 years. Both the frequency and lethality of extremist-related mass killings have increased over the previous decade.

The period of 2000-09 saw far fewer extremist shooting sprees -- just four mass killings connected to extremists, totaling only 28 deaths (all firearms-related).

More extremists than ever are using firearms to commit mass murder. There is no reason to think this trend will not continue.

 

Mass Killings in the U.S. by Domestic Extremists, 2000-2009
Mass Killings in the U.S. by Domestic Extremists, 2010-2019

The 42 extremist-related murders of 2019 occurred in 17 separate incidents, 14 of which involved a single death.  Two incidents—the El Paso and Jersey City attacks—can be considered mass killings.  Both attacks were also ideological attacks targeting specific victims:  Hispanics in the first instance and Jews (and possibly police officers) in the second. 

Overall, five of the deadly incidents, with a total of 29 fatalities, were ideological attacks of some kind.  Hispanics were targeted in one incident, African Americans in one incident and Jews in two incidents.  In the fifth incident, a perpetrator targeted an organized crime figure he believed was connected to a right-wing conspiracy theory.

Non-ideological murders were linked to gangs, domestic violence and robberies.

The El Paso attack, which left 22 dead, was the third deadliest act of violence by a domestic extremist in more than 50 years (COE began tracking extremist-related murders in 1970).  Only the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, which killed 168 people, and Omar Mateen’s 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, which killed 49 people, were deadlier. 

Since 1970, seven of the deadliest acts of violence by domestic extremists in the U.S. took place after 2010.

Ten Deadliest Acts of Violence by U.S. Domestic Extremists (1970-2019)

The COE tracks domestic extremist-related murders connected to all types of extremism, including right-wing extremism, left-wing extremism and domestic Islamist extremism, as well as less common forms.

When extremists adhere to or are influenced by more than one extremist movement, they are categorized here by their apparent “primary” ideology, i.e., the ideology that seems to be most important to them, is the most recently followed or, if applicable, that seems most directly related to the murders they committed.

Domestic Extremist Related Killings

In 2019, right-wing extremists were responsible for the great majority (38 of 42, or 90%) of domestic extremist-related murders.  Over the past 10 years, right-wing extremists committed 76% of extremist-related murders, making the 2019 figure higher than average.

Right-wing extremists in the U.S. commit murders for a range of reasons. The far right in this country is large, comprising many movements, including multiple white supremacist and anti-government extremist movements, as well as a variety of single-issue extremist movements.  Most of these movements have some degree of association with violence, with many even engaging in terrorist plots and attacks.

Moreover, some far right extremist movements engage in non-ideological violence as well as ideological violence. Over the past 10 years, the number of ideological-related killings and non-ideological killings by extremists has been virtually equal (218 versus 217), with the majority of non-ideological killings coming from right-wing extremists, especially white supremacists.  These killings include murders of informants, domestic violence murders, drug- and gang-related murders, and other murders connected to traditional crime.

White supremacist gang members, for example, have committed hate crime murders, but have killed even more people as part of organized crime activities.  They also not infrequently target their own members and associates for death, most commonly as suspected informants or for breaking gang rules.  Moreover, people with violent dispositions appear to be attracted to extremist causes, perhaps because it gives them a way to act on violent impulses.[5]
 

Domestic Extremist Related Killings in the US by Perpetrator Affiliation 2010-2019

White supremacists were responsible for 34 (81%) of the extremist-related murders of 2019, which fits with the ongoing resurgence of white supremacy that began in 2015. Over the past 10 years, white supremacists have committed 78% of right-wing extremist-related murders and 60% of all extremist-related murders.[6]
 

Right Wing Extremism Related Killings In The US by Perpetrator Affiliation

Two additional murders are attributed to people with ties to the anti-government sovereign citizen movement, but neither seems to have been ideologically motivated.  Given that sovereign citizen ideas are spreading rapidly in jail and prison populations, there may be more non-ideological killings in the future committed by people with ties to the sovereign citizen movement. There have been numerous instances in recent years of people arrested on criminal charges, including murder, being exposed to sovereign citizen ideas and tactics after their arrest and subsequently employing sovereign tactics in their legal battles.[7]

One of the right-wing related 2019 murders was allegedly committed by a prospective member of the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group the COE considers part of the alt lite, an extremist movement that differentiates itself from the white supremacist alt right. The killing itself appears to have been non-ideological; Buckey Wolfe, the perpetrator, stabbed his own brother in the head with a sword.[8]

Wolfe was also a follower of QAnon, a set of fringe right-wing conspiracy theories involving posts made by the anonymous “Q,” which primarily appear on the extreme right website 8chan, as well as other sites.  These theories are an evolution and expansion of earlier far right conspiracy theories, such as the so-called “Pizzagate” conspiracy, which claimed that an alleged vast pedophile ring linked to prominent Democrats was being operated from a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor.  QAnon is the most important right-wing fringe conspiracy theory to emerge in years.[9]

Since QAnon’s emergence in late 2017 several people have engaged in harassment or other activities related to their QAnon beliefs, including an armed standoff at Hoover Dam in 2018. In March 2019, Anthony Comello appears to have committed the first QAnon-related murder; he shot and killed a high-ranking figure in the Gambino organized crime family on Staten Island.  Comello, who had previously tried to arrest various public figures he believed to be “enemies” of President Trump, may have been trying to arrest the mob boss. During a court appearance after the murder, Comello displayed QAnon-related messages written on his hand during a court appearance.[10]

Violence linked to conspiracy theories is not surprising; COE has documented how conspiracy theories can motivate people to extreme violence, especially if a conspiracy theory singles out individuals or places as enemies or targets.  Extremist conspiracy theories can create such a sense of urgency in their followers that some of them may feel motivated to act.[11]

In 2019, for the first time since 2012, no U.S. murders were linked to domestic Islamist extremists.  It would be dangerous, however, to conclude that this threat is diminished.  Moreover, though domestic Islamist extremists killed no one in 2019, the U.S. did suffer this past year what appears to be its first lethal foreign terror attack on American soil since the 9/11 terror attacks.  In December 2019, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a Saudi Arabian aviation student stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, committed a shooting attack that resulted in three people killed and eight more injured. Alshamrani was killed by responding law enforcement. His attack, still under investigation, is thought to have been motivated by Islamist extremism.  Because Alshamrani was neither a U.S. citizen nor a long-term U.S. resident, his attack is not counted in the statistics in this report, which documents killings by domestic rather than foreign extremists.  It is clear the threat to the U.S. from Islamist extremists willing to commit violent acts remains a serious one.[12] 

Most of the extremist-related murders of 2019 were committed by “lone wolf” extremists -- people who were not part of any organized group. However, the perpetrators of nine of the 17 incidents in this report did have ties to extremist groups.  That includes Buckey Wolfe, the would-be Proud Boy, and someone with ties to a Klan group who committed a non-ideological murder.

It also includes seven incidents with ties to white supremacist prison gangs, including the Nevada-based Aryan Warriors, the Ohio Aryan Brotherhood, the Missouri-based Southwest Honkeys, the Arizona Aryan Brotherhood, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and an Oklahoma-based Aryan Brotherhood gang (either the United or Universal Aryan Brotherhood). 

Whether on the streets or behind bars, members of white supremacist prison gangs have murdered people in the U.S. every year in the past decade, despite numerous attempts by law enforcement and prosecutors to rein in these groups, especially via racketeering prosecutions.  Combining the criminal motives of organized crime with group bonds strengthened by white supremacy, these gangs have grown in size and extent across the country in recent years, perpetrating crimes involving drug rings, hate crimes and murder.[13]

Four extremist murders in 2019 were not committed by right-wing extremists.  On December 10, 2019, David Nathaniel Anderson and Francine Graham shot and killed Jersey City, New Jersey Police Department Detective Joseph Seals in a cemetery.  Anderson and Graham then drove a mile to the JC Kosher Supermarket, entered the store and began shooting at people. They killed the store owner, Mindy Ferencz, an employee, Douglas Rodriguez, and a customer, Moshe Deutsch. Two other customers were able to escape. As police arrived, Anderson and Graham engaged them in gunfire, wounding two officers before being shot and killed.  Police later found a pipe bomb in their van, which was linked to another murder a week earlier in Bayonne, New Jersey, which is still under investigation.  Law enforcement officials reported that Anderson and Graham are also suspects in another December shooting incident near Newark, in which someone shot at a car driven by a Hasidic Jewish man. Officials also said there was evidence to suggest the supermarket attack may have been planned for months.[14]

The shooters, Anderson and Graham, both had prior ties to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, a fringe religious sect whose adherents are frequently racist and anti-Semitic. COE research uncovered a social media account believed to be connected to Anderson that blamed police killings of African Americans on Jews, as well as other evidence of anti-police and anti-Semitic views. Police uncovered yet more evidence of such views on the part of the shooters, describing the attack as “domestic terrorism.”[15]

These four --and possibly five ---murders are clearly extremist-related. Based on available information, however, they defy a simple “left-right” classification scheme. Black Hebrew Israelites are a loosely organized religious sect with distinct beliefs of their own, some of them quite extreme. Some Black Hebrew Israelites have ties to black nationalist groups (typically thought of as left-wing, though some also defy easy categorization), while some have ties to other extreme belief systems, such as the sovereign citizen movement (typically thought of as right-wing). 

Based on the information uncovered to date in the limited amount of time since the murders, it seems premature to categorize Anderson and Graham as “left-wing extremist.”  As the investigation continues, it may be possible to more definitively categorize their extremism.  For the statistics in this report, COE is placing this incident in a category of “other/miscellaneous” extremism.

Detective Seals, one of Anderson and Graham’s victims, is the latest police officer to be killed by domestic extremists.  Almost every year, one or more police officers die at the hands of extremists.  In some cases, they are specifically targeted by extremist movements, many of which have an animus against law enforcement; in other cases, they are killed while trying to protect their communities from extremist violence.

 

Police Officers Killed in the United States by Domestic Extremists (1965-2019)
  • Jersey City, New Jersey, December 10, 2019: David Anderson and Francine Graham shot and killed a police officer at a cemetery, then drove to a kosher market, where they killed three people at the store before being killed during a subsequent standoff and shootout. One civilian and two police officers were also shot but survived. Both Anderson and Graham had expressed Black Hebrew Israelite and anti-Semitic views in the past.; A note reportedly found in their vehicle read, “I do this because my creator makes me do this, and I hate who he hates.” As of the publication of this report, police are also investigating whether the two may also have been involved in a previous killing as well.[16]
     
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma, December 5, 2019: Cody Fulmer, Tyler Brett Coyle, Taylor Michelle Harper and Destiny Rae Asher, all alleged members or associates of a white supremacist prison gang, reportedly fatally assaulted fellow member Jared Langworthy, who had fallen out of favor with the gang.  The gang in question has been variously reported as the United Aryan Brotherhood or the Universal Aryan Brotherhood (Oklahoma has multiple Aryan Brotherhood gangs).[17]
     
  • Red Rock, Texas, September 29, 2019:  Anthony Voight, a member of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, was arrested for the shooting murder of a man who accompanied Voight’s ex-girlfriend to retrieve her belongings from Voight’s home.[18]
     
  • Henrico, Virginia, September 3, 2019:  White supremacist James Thomas Seay, who has been active in various Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups, was charged with second-degree murder for the shooting death of his uncle.  A possible motive has not been reported.[19]
     
  • Bullhead City, Arizona, August 11, 2019: White supremacist Travers Proulx was arrested on first-degree murder charges after he allegedly stabbed his mother to death following an argument.[20]
     
  • El Paso, Texas, August 3, 2019: White supremacist Patrick Crusius travelled from outside Dallas to El Paso to attack what Crusius described in a manifesto as “the Hispanic community.” Crusius opened fire with an assault rifle at a Walmart in El Paso, killing 22 people and wounding 24 more. Crusius claims to have been inspired by Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist who launched a deadly attack on mosques in New Zealand earlier in the year.[21]
     
  • Boulder, Colorado, July 28, 2019: Stephen Christopher Wolf was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, burglary and other charges for the alleged murder of Jeffrey Michael Lynch. According to police officers who had past contact with him, Wolf was an adherent of the anti-government sovereign citizen movement.[22]
     
  • Poway, California, April 27, 2019: White supremacist John T. Earnest opened fire inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue. He killed one person and injured three more before his gun jammed. He fled the scene and was captured soon after. Earnest posted a manifesto online praising Brenton Tarrant and Robert Bowers.  He also admitted to previously having tried to set a local mosque on fire.[23]
     
  • Tucson, Arizona, April 16, 2019: Blane Barksdale, a reported member of the Arizona Aryan Brotherhood, and his wife, Susan Barksdale, allegedly murdered an elderly Tucson man in his home, stole hundreds of firearms from him and burned the house down before fleeing. They were captured in New York the following month, but during their extradition in August, they overpowered their guards and escaped in Utah. They were finally found and arrested in a “remote area” of northeastern Arizona in September 2019.[24]
     
  • St. Petersburg, Florida, March 27, 2019: William John Shutt was arrested after opening fire on two African American men whose vehicle was stopped next to his own, killing one of the men and wounding the other. Shutt’s cellphone storage reportedly included footage of Brenton Tarrant’s New Zealand mosque shootings, as well as other videos of extreme violence. In a preliminary hearing, a police officer said that there was a connection between Shutt and alt right white supremacist groups, but the judge did not allow him to explain further at the time.[25]
     
  • Staten Island/New York City, New York, March 13, 2019:  Anthony Comello traveled to the Staten Island home of Francesco Cali, a known organized crime boss, allegedly lured him outside and shot him to death. According to Comello’s attorney, Comello was a committed believer in the fringe right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory and thought Cali was part of the “deep state.”  In previous incidents, Comello had allegedly tried to “arrest” Democratic politicians who have expressed opposition to President Trump, including Bill de Blasio, Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff. According to the New York Times, Comello had shared additional far right conspiracies online.[26]
     
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan, March 8, 2019: Anthony Ozomaro allegedly shot his recently estranged girlfriend to death. Ozomaro, who reportedly had a history of domestic violence, was arrested after a short standoff. In custody, Ozomaro reportedly said he was a sovereign citizen who did not recognize any government, and that his name was “Supreme.”[27]
     
  • Springfield, Missouri, February 21, 2019:  Keeton Waring, a reported member of the Southwest Honkeys, one of several Missouri-based white supremacist prison gangs, allegedly shot and killed another man during an argument over a missing cellphone. He has been charged with second-degree murder.[28]
     
  • Wilmington, Ohio, February 18, 2019: White supremacist James Carver, reportedly a member or associate of the Ohio Aryan Brotherhood who may also have had connections to other white supremacist groups, fatally shot his girlfriend.” Carver has been indicted on murder, rape, and several other charges. Many white supremacists have had histories of violence against women.[29]
     
  • Las Vegas, Nevada, January 22 and 27, 2019: In two separate incidents, Devin Campbell and Christopher Ashoff, members of the Aryan Warriors, a Nevada-based white supremacist prison gang, shot people to death. On January 22, they allegedly killed two men, Josue Lizardo Contreras-Verdin and David Esparza-Sanchez, in what may have been a drug-related murder.  Less than a week later, for reasons unspecified, they allegedly stabbed a homeless man to death. .[30]
     
  • Seattle, Washington, January 5, 2019:  Buckey Wolfe, a self-declared member of the Proud Boys, an alt lite extremist group, fatally stabbed his brother in the head with a sword. Wolfe, whom prosecutors have said exhibits signs of mental illness, has been charged with second-degree murder.  The Proud Boys subsequently claimed Wolfe was never accepted into the group, although they admitted he had been a prospective member, the earliest stage of membership.  Wolfe was also an active promoter of the right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory.[31]

Every year, some murders attract speculation or allegations of extremist connections.  The COE examines all such incidents for evidence of extremism.  The following incidents are among the 2019 murders for which COE did not find sufficient evidence of extremism. They are therefore not included in the year’s extremist murder statistics.

  • Dayton, Ohio, August 4, 2019: Connor Stephen Betts opened fire outside a bar in Dayton, killing nine people and wounding 17 more before being killed by police officers. Following the attack, allegations arose that Betts was a left-wing extremist. A COE investigation confirmed that Betts had left-leaning views but did not find sufficient evidence to describe him as an extremist. Law enforcement investigators did not find an ideological motive for the shooting itself.  Evidence did emerge that Betts was fixated on and talked about mass killings.[32]
     
  • Gilroy, California, July 28, 2019: Santino William Legan, opened fire at a local Garlic Festival event, killing three people and wounding 17 more before killing himself.  Speculation about an extremist connection to Legan centered around a social media post shortly before the attack that promoted Might is Right, an obscure 19th century book that attacks Christianity and Judaism, non-Anglo-Saxons, and other groups and ideas.  Today, some white supremacists admire and promote the book—but so do others, including various nihilists, egoists and occultists. Legan never explained why he liked the book and, in the absence of other evidence illuminating Legan’s beliefs, it is difficult to link Legan to the white supremacist movement on this basis alone (nor did his attack seem to target any specific type of victim).[33]
     
  • Peoria, Arizona, July 4, 2019: Michael Paul Adams, a white man, fatally stabbed 17-year-old Elija Al-Amin at a convenience store. Adams later said that rap music (which Al-Amin had been listening to in his car before entering the store) “makes him feel unsafe” because he had previously been attacked by people who listened to it, and claimed that “people who listen to rap music are a threat to him and the community.”  Following the murder, some claimed that Adams was a white supremacist. However, local prosecutors could not find evidence that he was tied to any such groups or evidence “of the adoption or proclamation by the defendant of white supremacist ideology.”[34]

The COE has compiled a list of more than 1,000 known murders/killings perpetrated since 1970—essentially the post-Civil Rights era—by people associated with a variety of domestic extremist movements.  These are primarily murders committed by American extremists on U.S. soil, though a few cases involving American extremists murdering other Americans abroad (such as at Jonestown in Guyana) are also included. Foreign terrorist attacks on U.S. soil are not included.

Because extremist connections to some murders can take months or years to be revealed, statistics for the most recent years will inevitably be revised upward in future years.  For example, COE’s report on extremist-related murders in 2018 counted 50 murders, but within a year, COE had uncovered three more extremist-related 2018 murders and revised its numbers accordingly.  Similar upward revision is likely to occur in the future for the 2019 statistics.

The incidents are derived primarily from public sources, leading to some limitations regarding cross-era or cross-movement comparisons.  Regarding cross-era comparisons, it is generally more difficult to find information on extremist-related killings from the 1970s and 1980s, so it may not be meaningful to compare figures from earlier eras with figures from the 1990s or later.

The main limitation of cross-movement comparisons is that extremist connections to killings are easier to determine for some movements than for others.  For example, white supremacists, who often display many racist and white supremacist tattoos, or who may be documented as white supremacists by gang investigators or corrections officials, are often more easily identifiable.  In contrast, it may be more difficult for police or media to identify a suspect’s anti-government extremist associations.  This issue comes up more often with non-ideological killings.  It is likely that non-ideological murders committed by extremists other than white supremacists are underrepresented in ADL’s data.

In addition, because murders behind bars often attract little or no media attention and are typically not publicized by prison officials, incidents of prison-based deadly violence committed by adherents of all extremist movements are under-represented.

As with any such list, the inclusion or exclusion of certain borderline cases may be judgment calls based on the best evidence available, judgments with which others may reasonably disagree.

  1. Use the bully pulpit: The President, cabinet officials, and Members of Congress must call out bigotry at every opportunity. The right to free speech is a core value, but the promotion of hate should be vehemently rejected. Simply put, you cannot say it enough: America is no place for hate.
     
  2. Increase government transparency and expand its understanding of the challenge of countering domestic terrorism: The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) required increased coordination, accountability, and transparency of the federal government in collecting and recording data on domestic terrorism. Data on extremism and domestic terrorism is being collected by the FBI, but not enough, and the reporting is insufficient and flawed. Data drives policy; we cannot address what we are not measuring.
     
  3. Resources to combat the threat: Congress should pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA) (S. 3190/ H.R. 5602) to enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by not only requiring reporting on the threat of white supremacist violence, but also requiring that the government apportion its resources to focus on the threat as reported. The bill also authorizes the offices addressing domestic terrorism, giving Congress offices that they can oversee more directly. It would also provide training and resources to assist non-federal law enforcement in addressing these threats, requiring DOJ, DHS, and the FBI to provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in understanding, detecting, deterring, and investigating acts of domestic terrorism.
     
  4. Fully Fund Programs Supporting Community Security:  Non-profit religious institutions objectively deemed to be at high risk of attack to participate in federal, state, and local government programs should be able to receive funding for security, provided adequate church-state separation and anti-discrimination safeguards are in place. These grants should fully fund the actual need.
     
  5. Create a mechanism for systematized public-private information sharing: Since law enforcement must be more constrained than civil society in collecting information on domestic extremists, and since civil society and the technology sector may be more credible or appropriate actors to counter the threat, there must be a formalized and institutionalized mechanism for information flow on domestic terrorism information. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has set up such a public-private partnership that has streamlined public-private information flow using a structure set up with government funding but operating independently of the government.
     
  6. Invest in prevention: Civil society and other actors can help create off-ramps to prevent individuals from taking up violent extremists’ cause. Congress can work to prevent violent extremism with an outside grants lens, designed to invest in academic institutions to research what works in prevention, provide funding for law enforcement training on white supremacy and extremism, and for civil society to empower local communities.
     
  7. Support local entities in preventing, addressing, and reporting hate crimes: Congress should take up and pass the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act of 2019 (NO HATE Act of 2019 S. 2043/ H.R. 3545). This legislation would authorize incentive grants to spark improved local and state hate crime training, prevention, best practices, and data collection initiatives – including grants for state hate crime reporting hotlines to direct individuals to local law enforcement and support services.  Congress should also provide funding for criminal investigations and prosecutions by state, local and tribal law enforcement officials, as authorized by Section 4704 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.    
     
  8.  Prevent known hate crimes perpetrators from accessing firearms: Congress should immediately take up and pass the Disarm Hate Act (S.1462/H.R.2708) to close the loophole that currently permits the sale of firearms to individuals who have been convicted of threatening a person based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. The measure would prohibit individuals convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from obtaining a firearm.
     
  9. Consider the necessity and feasibility of a criminal domestic terrorism statute: Congress should begin immediate hearings and consultations with legal and policy experts, marginalized communities, and law enforcement professionals on whether a rights-protecting domestic terrorism criminal charge is needed – and whether it is possible to craft such a statute. Congress should closely examine whether the gap in the law caused by the lack of a domestic terrorism statute can be addressed without violating First Amendment speech and association rights.
     
  10.  Better enforce existing hate crimes laws and improve training and data collection on hate crimes: Congress should ensure that the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will enforce relevant federal laws and vigorously investigate and prosecute hate crimes. The Department of Justice should incentivize and encourage state and local law enforcement agencies to more comprehensively collect and report hate crimes data to the FBI, with special attention devoted to large underreporting law enforcement agencies that either have not participated in the FBI Hate Crime Statistics Act program at all or have affirmatively and not credibly reported zero hate crimes. More comprehensive, complete hate crime reporting can deter hate violence and advance police-community relations.
     
  11. Consider whether and how it might be appropriate to designate overseas white supremacist groups as FTOs: The State Department should examine whether certain white supremacist groups operating abroad meet the specific criteria to be subject to sanctions under its Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) authority. The criteria, set out in 8 U.S.C. § 1189(a) are: (1) the organization must be foreign; (2) the organization must engage in terrorist activity or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism; and (3) the terrorist activity or terrorism of the organization must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security of the U.S. It is possible that a white supremacist terrorist group might meet these criteria, and the State Department should determine whether the evidence is there to do so.
     
  12. Address Online Hate and Harassment: Congress has an important role to play in addressing online hate and harassment. Hate and harassment translate from real-world to online spaces, including in social media and games, but our laws have not kept up. Many forms of severe online misconduct are not consistently covered by cybercrime, harassment, stalking and hate crime law. Congress has an opportunity to lead the fight against cyberhate by increasing protections for targets as well as penalties for perpetrators of online misconduct. Some actions Congress can take include revising Federal law to allow for penalty enhancements based on cyber-related conduct; updating federal stalking and harassment statutes’ intent requirement to account for online behavior; and legislating specifically on cybercrimes such as doxing, swatting, non-consensual pornography, and deepfakes.
     
    1.   Urge social media platforms to institute robust governance: Government officials have an important role to play in encouraging social media platforms to institute robust and verifiable industry-wide self-governance. This could take many forms, including Congressional oversight or passing laws that require certain levels of transparency and auditing. The internet plays a vital role in allowing for innovation and democratizing trends, and that should be preserved. At the same time the ability to use it for hateful and severely harmful conduct needs to be effectively addressed.
       
    2. Improve training of law enforcement: Law enforcement is a key responder to online hate, especially in cases when users feel they are in imminent danger. Increasing resources and training for these departments is critical to ensure they can effectively investigate and prosecute cyber cases and that targets know they will be supported if they contact law enforcement.
       
  13.  Urge technology companies to recognize their role in being part of the solution: Every social media and online gaming platform must have clear terms of service that address hateful content and harassing behavior, and clearly defined consequences for violations. These policies should state that the platform will not tolerate hateful content or behavior based on protected characteristics. They should prohibit abusive tactics such as harassment, doxing and swatting. Platforms should also note what the process of appeal is for users who feel their content was flagged as hateful or abusive in error. Companies should be open and transparent – in a third party-verified manner – on how they address these issues on their platforms.

[1] Cedar Attanasio, “El Paso mass shooting suspect pleads not guilty in 22 deaths,” Associated Press, October 10, 2019, accessed at https://apnews.com/3fd473325d17429784e91a3c8c7b3909; Anonymous [Patrick Crusius], “The Inconvenient Truth,” n.d., n.p. The German citizen killed was living in Mexico at the time of the attack.

[2] ADL defines terrorism is a pre-planned act or attempted act of significant violence by one or more non-state actors in order to further an ideological, social or religious cause, or to harm perceived opponents of such causes. Significant violent acts can include bombings or use of other weapons of mass destruction, assassinations and targeted killings, shooting sprees, arsons and firebombings, kidnappings and hostage situations and, in some cases, armed robberies. Domestic terrorism consists of acts or attempted acts of terrorism in which the perpetrators are citizens or permanent residents of the country in which the act takes place and are not members or agents of foreign or international terrorist organizations.  ADL defines a hate crime as a criminal act against a person or property in which the perpetrator chooses the victim because of the victim's real or perceived race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or gender. Some state-level statutory definitions in the United States may include additional (or fewer) categories. The terms hate crime and terrorism are not mutually exclusive; an act can be both if it meets both definitions.  See “Defining Extremism: A Glossary of White Supremacist Terms, Movements and Philosophies,” Anti-Defamation League, accessed at https://www.adl.org/education/resources/glossary-terms/defining-extremism-white-supremacy.

[3] Lyle Moran, “Alleged Poway Synagogue Shooter Pleads Not Guilty to All Charges,” The Daily Beast, April 30, 2019, accessed at https://www.thedailybeast.com/poway-synagogue-shooting-john-earnest-pleads-not-guilty-to-all-charges; [John Earnest], “An Open Letter,” n.p., n.d.

[4] Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen, and Deanna Pan, “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America,” Mother Jones, December 11, 2019, accessed at https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map/.

[5] For the different segments of the far right, see Mark Pitcavage, “Surveying the Landscape of the Extreme Right,” George Washington University Program on Extremism, August 2019, accessed at https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/Surveying%20The%20Landscape%20of%20the%20American%20Far%20Right_0.pdf.

[6] On the recent resurgence of white supremacy, see Mark Pitcavage, “New Hate and Old: The Changing Face of American White Supremacy,” (New York: Anti-Defamation League, 2018), accessed at https://www.adl.org/new-hate-and-old.

[7] Former Subway restaurant pitchman Jared Fogle is one of many examples; see Lindsey Bever, “Jared Fogle just tried to get out of his sex-crime sentence with a legal Hail Mary,” Washington Post, November 14, 2017, accessed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2017/11/14/jared-fogle-just-tried-to-get-out-of-his-sex-crime-sentence-with-a-legal-hail-mary/.

[8] “From Alt Right to Alt Lite: Naming the Hate,” Anti-Defamation League, 2017, accessed at https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/from-alt-right-to-alt-lite-naming-the-hate.  On the Proud Boys, see Vegas Tenold, “Proud Boys,” Anti-Defamation League, January 2020, accessed at https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/proud-boys

[9] On QAnon, see Justin Bank, Liam Stack and Daniel Victor, “What is QAnon: Explaining the Internet Conspiracy Theory That Showed Up at a Trump Rally,” The New York Times, August 1, 2018, accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/01/us/politics/what-is-qanon.html; Will Sommer, “What is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained,” The Daily Beast, March 20, 2019, accessed at https://www.thedailybeast.com/what-is-qanon-the-craziest-theory-of-the-trump-era-explained; Julie Wong, “What is QAnon? Explaining the bizarre rightwing conspiracy theory,” The Guardian, July 30, 2018, accessed at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/30/qanon-4chan-rightwing-conspiracy-theory-explained-trump; Jane Coaston, “QAnon, the scarily popular pro-Trump conspiracy theory, explained,” Vox, August 2, 2018, accessed at https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/1/17253444/qanon-trump-conspiracy-theory-reddit; and Gabrielle Bruney, “Unpacking QAnon: A Batsh*t Conspiracy Theory Tailor-Made for the Trump Era,” Esquire, August 5, 2018, accessed at https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a22646546/q-anon-trump-conspiracy-theory-explained/.

[10] Julia Reinstein, “The Suspected Gambino Mob Boss Killer Scrawled ‘MAGA Forever’ And Apparent QAnon Messages On His Hands In Court,” Buzzfeed News, March 18, 2019, accessed at https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/juliareinstein/anthony-comello-francesco-cali-frankie-boy-shooting-maga; Ali Watkins, “He Wasn’t Seeking to Kill a Mob Boss. He Was Trying to Help Trump, His Lawyer Says,” New York Times, July 21, 2019, accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/21/nyregion/gambino-shooting-anthony-comello-frank-cali.html.

[11] Mark Pitcavage, “How Conspiracy Theories Can Kill,” Anti-Defamation League, November 14, 2018, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/how-conspiracy-theories-can-kill.

[12] Sadie Gurman, Dustin Volz and Nancy Youssef, “U.S. Calls Pensacola Attack Terrorism; Pressures Apple Over Gunman’s Phones,” Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2020, accessed at https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-calls-pensacola-naval-base-shooting-an-act-of-terrorism-11578943612.  On the lack of lethal terror attacks since 9/11, see Peter Bergen, David Sterman and Melissa Salyk-Virk, “Terrorism in America 18 Years After 9/11, (Washington, D.C.: New America Foundation, 2019), accessed at https://www.newamerica.org/international-security/reports/terrorism-america-18-years-after-911/.

[13] The growth and extent of such gangs may be seen in Chris Magyarics and Mark Pitcavage, “White Supremacist Prison Gangs in the United States: A Preliminary Inventory,” Anti-Defamation League, 2016, accessed at https://www.adl.org/resources/reports/white-supremacist-prison-gangs-in-the-united-states.

[14] Derick Waller, “Jersey City shooting was planned for months, based on hate, investigators say,” , ABC7ny.com, January 13, 2020, accessed at https://abc7ny.com/jersey-city-shooting-was-planned-for-months-investigators-say/5844233/.

[15] Ibid; “Evidence of Extremist Ideology Emerges in Jersey City Attack,” Anti-Defamation League, December 13, 2019, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/evidence-of-extremist-ideology-emerges-in-jersey-city-attack; “Center on Extremism Uncovers More Disturbing Details of Jersey City Shooter’s Extremist Ideology,” December 17, 2019, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/center-on-extremism-uncovers-more-disturbing-details-of-jersey-city-shooters-extremist; “Manifesto-style document found in Jersey City shooters’ U-Haul, CBSnews.com, December 12, 2019, accessed at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jersey-city-shooting-manifesto-style-document-found-in-shooters-u-haul-2019-12-12/; Michael Gold, “Jersey City Shooting Was ‘Domestic Terrorism,’ Officials say,” New York Times, December 12, 2019, accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/12/nyregion/jersey-city-shooting-domestic-terrorism.html.

[16] “Evidence of Extremist Ideology Emerges in Jersey City Attack,” Anti-Defamation League, December 13, 2019, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/evidence-of-extremist-ideology-emerges-in-jersey-city-attack; “Center on Extremism Uncovers More Disturbing Details of Jersey City Shooter’s Extremist Ideology,” December 17, 2019, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/center-on-extremism-uncovers-more-disturbing-details-of-jersey-city-shooters-extremist; Brian Thompson, “Bomb in Van of NJ Shooting Attack Suspects Could’ve Killed People 5 Football Fields Away: Officials,” NBC News, January 13, 2020, accessed at https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/bomb-in-van-of-nj-shooting-attack-suspects-couldve-killed-people-5-football-fields-away-officials/2259079/.

[17] “Tulsa authorities say prison-gang dispute led to killing,” Associated Press, December 9, 2019, accessed at https://apnews.com/132e941e746823ee443a7c763f4c8288; “Tulsa authorities say 3 more arrested in prison-gang killing,” Associated Press, January 2, 2020, accessed at https://apnews.com/ba1559b03cf8357a0149d04733f60f25.

[18] Brandon Mulder, “Man with Aryan Brotherhood ties arrested for Bastrop County murder,” Austin American-Statesman, October 1, 2019, accessed at https://www.statesman.com/news/20191001/man-with-aryan-brotherhood-ties-arrested-for-bastrop-county-murder.

[19] Vernon Freeman, Jr., and Gabrielle Harmon, “Henrico man charged with killing his uncle,” WTVR.com, September 4, 2019, accessed at https://wtvr.com/2019/09/04/henrico-man-charged-with-killing-family-member/.

[20] Jim Seckler, “Trial date set for man accused of killing his mother,” Mohave Daily News, December 31, 2019, accessed at http://www.mohavedailynews.com/news/trial-date-set-for-man-accused-of-killing-his-mother/article_8f6e106e-2b94-11ea-bb5c-f3d3549dcd2d.html; Lauren Edmonds, “Swastika tattooed man who stabbed his mother, 74, to death during an argument ran away when her screams woke his brother,” Daily Mail, Auguste 12, 2019, accessed at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7349245/Man-stabbed-mother-74-death-argument-ran-screams-woke-brother.html.

[21] “Mass Shooting in El Paso: What We Know,” Anti-Defamation League, August 4, 2019, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/mass-shooting-in-el-paso-what-we-know; “White Supremacist’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Echoes Comments from Public Figures,” Anti-Defamation League, August 8, 2019, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/white-supremacists-anti-immigrant-rhetoric-echoes-comments-from-public-figures.

[22] Mitchell Byars, “Man arrested on suspicion of murder in Fourmile Canyon death,” Boulder Daily Camera, July 31, 2019, accessed at https://www.dailycamera.com/2019/07/31/man-arrested-on-suspicion-of-murder-in-fourmile-canyon-death/.

[23] “Poway Attack Illustrates Danger Right-Wing Extremists Pose to Jews, Muslims,” Anti-Defamation League, May 2, 2019, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/poway-attack-illustrates-danger-right-wing-extremists-pose-to-jews-muslims.

[24] Meagan Flynn, “Husband-and-wife fugitives wanted for murder, arson captured in Arizona after brazen escape,” Washington Post, September 12, 2019, accessed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/09/12/blane-susan-barksdale-arizona-fugitives-caught/; “Murder suspects escape after overpowering officers during prison transport in Utah,” KHOU.com, August 27, 2019, accessed at https://www.khou.com/article/news/nation-world/murder-suspects-escape-after-overpowering-officers-during-prison-transport-in-utah/285-d78c76d2-fc16-411b-93c7-0653c6f843e4.

[25] Kavitha Surana, “Old Northeast shooting suspect fascinated by mass shootings, stockpiled weapons, police say,” Tampa Bay Times, May 30, 2019; accessed at https://www.tampabay.com/breaking-news/old-northeast-shooting-suspect-fascinated-by-mass-shootings-stockpiled-weapons-police-say-20190530/

[26] Ali Watkins, “He wasn’t seeking to kill a mob boss. He was trying to help Trump, his lawyer says,” The New York Times, July 21, 2019, accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/21/nyregion/gambino-shooting-anthony-comello-frank-cali.html.

[27] Ryan Boldrey, “Kalamazoo man accused of killing ex-girlfriend undergoing competency evaluation,” Mlive.com, December 26, 2019, accessed at https://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/2019/12/kalamazoo-man-accused-of-killing-ex-girlfriend-undergoing-competency-evaluation.html.

[28] Harrison Keegan, “Southwest Honkys conspired to rough up witness in Springfield murder case, documents say,” Springfield News-Leader, May 6, 2019, accessed at https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/crime/2019/05/06/southwest-honkys-accused-tampering-witness-springfield-homicide-prison-gang/1116688001/.

[29] David Wright, “Person of interest in homicide case arrested in Dayton,” Times-Gazette, February 21, 2019, accessed at https://www.timesgazette.com/news/35526/highland-county-coroner-says-no-evidence-shooting-occurred-in-clinton-county.

[30] Ed Komenda, “Aryan Warriors prison gang in Nevada charged with murder, drug trafficking, racketeering,” Reno Gazette-Journal, August 21, 2019, accessed at https://www.rgj.com/story/news/2019/08/21/23-nevada-prison-gang-members-indicted/2075541001/.

[31] Sara Jean Green, “’God told me he was a lizard’: Seattle man accused of killing his brother with a sword,” Seattle Times, January 8, 2019, accessed at https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/god-told-me-he-was-a-lizard-seattle-man-accused-of-killing-his-brother-with-a-sword/; Will Sommer, “QAnon-believing Proud Boy accused of murdering ‘lizard’ brother with sword,” Will Sommer, The Daily Beast, January 9, 2019, accessed at https://www.thedailybeast.com/proud-boy-member-accused-of-murdering-his-brother-with-a-sword-4?source=twitter&via=desktop; “Buckey Wolfe was never a Proud Boy,” statement by “The Elders,” January 9, 2019, accessed at https://officialproudboys.com/uncategorized/buckey-wolfe-was-never-a-proud-boy/.

[32] Alex Kasprak, “Was Dayton Mass Shooter a Self-Described ‘Pro-Satan Leftist Who Supported Elizabeth Warren’?” Snopes.com, August 5, 2019, accessed at https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/dayton-shooter-warren/; Paul Murphy, Konstantin Toropin, et al, “Dayton shooter had an obsession with violence and mass shootings, police say,” CNN.com, August 7, 2019, accessed at https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/05/us/connor-betts-dayton-shooting-profile/index.html; Will Garbe, Hasan Karim, et al, “Dayton Shooting: Oregon District gunman left decade of red flags,” Dayton Daily News, August 9, 2019, accessed at https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/crime--law/dayton-shooting-oregon-district-gunman-left-decade-red-flags/E5UoTI8To1CJDaWUndXBlO/.

[33] “Food Festival Shooter Promoted Obscure Social Darwinist Screed,” Anti-Defamation League, July 30, 2019, accessed at https://www.adl.org/blog/food-festival-shooter-promoted-obscure-social-darwinist-screed.

[34] Karen Zraick, “An Arizona Teenager Was Fatally Stabbed. The Suspect Blames Rap Music,” The New York Times, July 9, 2019, accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/09/us/elijah-al-amin-michael-paul-adams.html; Kevin Stone, “Death penalty decision in Peoria rap music murder could take months,” KTAR.com, July 11, 2019, accessed at https://ktar.com/story/2651237/death-penalty-decision-in-peoria-rap-music-murder-could-take-months/.

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