In the wake of several shooting massacres in the United States, law enforcement has ramped up efforts to keep copycat attackers at bay.
So far, it seems to be working. Over the last few weeks, police across the U.S. have made numerous arrests connected to threats and have foiled plans for possible mass shootings.
The arrests come amid renewed cries for stricter gun control laws following three attacks.
In just over a week, three U.S. cities fell victim to mass shootings — a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif. left four dead, a Walmart in El Paso, Texas claimed 22 lives, and a bustling entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio saw nine people killed.
The rash of violence led to a warning from the FBI about copycat attackers.
The bureau’s director, Chris Way, reportedly ordered offices across the country to conduct a new “threat assessment” to thwart future incidents.
“The FBI remains concerned that U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could become inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence,” the bureau said in a statement earlier this month.
“The FBI asks the American public to report to law enforcement any suspicious activity that is observed either in person or online.”
Racist, far-right, extremist views and ideologies underscore some of the recent acts of violence. They are also threaded through some of the arrests made since then.
A self-described white nationalist was arrested by New Middletown Police on Aug. 17 for allegedly threatening to shoot up a Jewish community centre in Youngstown, Ohio.
The suspect, identified as James Patrick Reardon, was charged with telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing.
Authorities claim Reardon appeared in a video with a semi-automatic rifle which he posted on Instagram and tagged the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown. Police later recovered assault rifles, ammunition, a gas mask, bulletproof armour and anti-Semitic propaganda at his home, The Associated Press reported.
Local media in Youngstown reported that the 20-year-old attended the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The 20-year-old pleaded not guilty on Monday.
Police officers in Daytona Beach foiled a possible mass shooting attack they claim was being planned through text messages.
The Volusia County Sherrif’s Office arrested 25-year-old Tristan Scott Wix on Aug. 16 after he allegedly sent several text messages claiming he wanted to “break a world record for the longest confirmed kill ever.”
According to authorities, in another text, Wix said he wanted to reach 100 victims.
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It was not clear who received the texts or where the incident was targeting. Police have not said how they obtained the texts.
In another, it’s alleged he said he was “fascinated with mass shootings” but didn’t own a firearm.
A 22-year-old Connecticut man was arrested on Aug. 15 after authorities say he expressed interest in committing a mass shooting and was attempting to build a rifle with parts he bought online.
When a search was executed at the home of the suspect, Brandon Wagshol, police allegedly yielded firearms, body armour and other items related to the investigation. The guns were reportedly registered to his father but police said Wagshol had access to them.
It was a tip that led police to this particular case. The FBI said his interest in the violence was found in a Facebook post. It’s not clear what the post said.
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On Aug. 8, less than a week after the El Paso shooting, police say they arrested a 23-year-old Las Vegas man in connection with an attack.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said the suspect, identified as Conor Climo, wanted to attack Jews and an LGBTQ2 bar. He was also reportedly building a bomb.
Officials claim Climo was “communicating with individuals who identified with a white supremacist extremist organization.” During these conversations, which authorities say were encrypted, he used racist language and anti-gay slurs.
He has been charged with possessing an unregistered firearm in the form of the component parts of a destructive device.
Prior to his arrest, in 2016, Climo reportedly patrolled his neighbourhood wearing battle gear and carrying an assault rifle and survival knife, according to a news report by KTNV-TV, as reported by the Associated Press.
Neighbours reportedly expressed concern, but he was not arrested at that time.
Elsewhere in the U.S.
Mere days after the back-to-back shootings in El Paso and Dayton, police say they charged a 20-year-old man after he walked into a Missouri Walmart heavily armed as a “social experiment.”
A few weeks later, police took a 15-year-old boy into custody outside his Daytona Beach, Fla. home for allegedly posting a threat online to kill seven people “at a minimum” using his dad’s automatic rifle. The boy told the officers arresting him, in front of his mother, that the post was a joke.
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Police in Clarksburg, Maryland arrested a 35-year-old man on the same day, Aug. 16, for allegedly threatening to kill people. In a statement, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida said the suspect had called for the “extermination of Hispanics.”
On Aug. 19, an 18-year-old was arrested by Maui Police in Kahului for his alleged intention to “shoot up a school,” which he posted on Twitter, according to KITV.
As recently as yesterday, Aug. 21, a California cook working at a Marriott hotel was arrested for allegedly planning to kill his coworkers and guests.
— With files from the Associated Press