White supremacists and other far-right extremists killed at least 38 people in the U.S. in 2019, the sixth deadliest year for violence by all domestic extremists since 1970, according to a report issued Wednesday by a group that fights anti-semitism.
The Anti-Defamation League counted a total of 42 domestic extremism-related slayings last year. The gunman who shot and killed 22 people in August 2019 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, accounted for more than half of them. Patrick Crusius, the suspect in that shooting rampage, is accused of targeting Mexicans at the store and faces federal hate crime charges.
Only the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in 1995 and the Pulse nightclub shooting by Omar Mateen in 2016 were deadlier attacks by domestic extremists in the past 50 years, according to the New York City-based ADL.
The ADL’s annual Murder and Extremism report says domestic extremists of all kinds killed 42 people in a total of 17 separate incidents last year, down from 53 killings in 2018 but higher than the 41 in 2017.
“This is part of a general trend of increasingly lethal attacks by domestic extremists in the United States,” the report says. Four of the deadliest years for extremist-related violence have occurred in the past five years, according to the ADL.
Right-wing extremists killed at least 330 people over the past decade, accounting for 76% of all domestic extremist-related killings.
“This should no longer come as a shock to anyone,” the ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement. “Lawmakers, law enforcement and the public need to recognize the grave and dangerous threat posed by violent white supremacy. We cannot begin to defeat this deadly form of hatred if we fail to even recognize it.”
The four killings that weren’t deemed to be acts of violence by far-right extremists were from the same case: the December 2019 attacks in Jersey City, New Jersey, that killed a police officer in a cemetery and three people at a kosher grocery store.
Authorities said the attackers, David Anderson and Francine Graham, were motivated by a hatred of Jewish people and law enforcement. Both had ties to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which defies a simple “left-right” classification, the ADL says.
“It is important to remember that extremist murders represent merely the tip of a pyramid of extremist violence in the United States,” the report says. “For every person killed by an extremist, many more are wounded or injured in attempted murders and assaults.”
Fourteen of the 17 cases of killings by domestic extremists last year involved a single death, the ADL says. One of those appears to be the first killing linked to QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that centres on the baseless belief that President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic paedophiles and cannibals.
Anthony Comello, who is charged with killing a New York mob boss in March 2019, displayed QAnon-related messages on his hand during a court hearing. A defence attorney has claimed Comello was deluded by internet conspiracy theories and thought he was helping Trump defend democracy.
“Extremist conspiracy theories can create such a sense of urgency in their followers that some of them may feel motivated to act,” the ADL report says.
None of the 42 killings last year was linked to domestic Islamist extremism, a first since 2012. However, a Saudi Arabian aviation student accused of fatally shooting three people at a U.S. naval base in Pensacola, Florida, in December is believed to be motivated by Islamic extremism. The base shootings appeared to be the first lethal foreign terror attack on American soil since the 9/11 terror attacks, the ADL report says. The group’s annual tally of domestic extremism slayings doesn’t include foreign terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
“It is clear the threat to the U.S. from Islamist extremists willing to commit violent acts remains a serious one,” the report adds.
The ADL, founded in 1913, describes itself as a “global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education and fighting hate online.”