Sibley didn’t provide much in the way of new information that day. Mainly, he confirmed a few details that had been reported by outlets across the country. The same can be said for what the Allen police chief and a Dallas-based FBI special agent had done before him during the press conference. But Sibley did make some comments that managed to stick out.
Sibley confirmed that, indeed, Garcia “had neo-Nazi Ideation.” The Texas DPS regional director pointed to uncovered social media posts, as well as patches on the clothing Garcia was wearing during the shooting and the tattoos found on his body after he had been killed by police as evidence Garcia held white supremacist views.
Sibley also said, “to me, it looks like he targeted the location, rather than a specific group of people. He was very random in the group of people he killed. It didn’t matter the age, race or sex, he just shot people, which is horrific in itself.” He ended by saying “the investigation is ongoing.”
Sibley’s assertion during the May 9 news conference, the last official update on the Allen shooting provided by authorities, didn’t make much sense to some Texas-based Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups. During a press conference on Monday, representatives from three AAPI groups urged authorities to begin calling the shooting in Allen a hate crime.
“The targeted location does not exclude the possibility of a hate crime,” said Stephanie Drenka of the Dallas Asian American Historical Society during the press conference, held at the Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation offices. “Allen and its adjacent cities of Plano, Frisco and Carrollton are home to one of the largest Asian American populations outside of the coasts. The shooter lived here in Dallas where a long history of racism and discriminatory policies have shaped the city and its people. We are demanding a full and thorough investigation by local and federal officials to determine if this was a racially motivated hate crime.”
“The targeted location does not exclude the possibility of a hate crime.” – Stephanie Drenka, Dallas Asian American Historical Societytweet this
Lily Trieu of Asian Texans for Justice alluded to last year's shooting in Dallas’ Koreatown district when she suggested a trend is developing in how local law enforcement works on possible hate crimes.
“In the span of less than a year, the Department of Public Safety has once again made statements dismissing incidents of gun violence against the Asian community in North Texas as not being racially motivated,” Trieu remarked during the press conference. “Just like in May of 2022, well before an investigation had been conducted, the DPS continues to make flippant comments without consideration of the facts. Not only is this insulting to a community fearful for its safety, it is negligent and irresponsible.”
Indeed, the relatively small amount of information that has been released about the victims and the killer paints a picture that can easily be viewed as one of racially motivated violence. But the threshold for state or federal authorities to formally classify an incident as a hate crime is higher than what the public might see in the days immediately following a tragedy.
We reached out to the Texas DPS to ask if a decision had been made on whether the Allen shooting will be considered a hate crime. In a written statement provided to the Observer, Lt. Oscar Villarreal explained, "At present, in the course of this investigation, we have shared all the preliminary information available for release. Please understand that investigations of this magnitude take time and are criminal, limiting what we can share. We do not have any new information available to share at this time."
Melinda Urbina, the public affairs officer for the FBI Dallas field office, stressed that when giving an update to the public, agencies can only confirm what they know for certain at that moment. There may be some eye-catching facts known in the case, but for the FBI or any other official body to stamp something with the hate crime label, many dots must be fully connected.
According to Urbina, the agencies investigating the Allen shooting have not declared it was not a hate crime, simply because they have yet to declare it as such. She says it’s not a dismissal, but a sign that the scenario is still developing. There’s a process that must be followed that involves more information than what the public is often privy to.
“Law enforcement can’t go into an investigation with preconceived notions,” Urbina said. “They have to work with what’s in front of them. What’s the evidence showing them? Is the evidence showing them what the shooter’s motivation was?”
The Department of Justice defines federal hate crimes as “crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.” Because Garcia can't be interrogated, investigators have much more work to do to determine whether he was targeting the Allen victims based on race, or if he was looking for a place to inflict the most damage he could in a short time, regardless of race.
“Investigators can’t jump to conclusions. They want to make sure they have enough evidence to support whatever their conclusion is." – Melinda Urbina, FBI Dallas spokespersontweet this
The 2019 murder of 23 people at an El Paso Walmart could be classified as a federal hate crime rather clearly because of the racist manifesto the shooter reportedly left behind, Urbina explained. As far as the public is aware in the case of the Allen shooting, although police have reason to believe Garcia was a white supremacist, clear evidence that he set out to kill anyone based specifically on race at this point has not been uncovered.
“Law enforcement doesn't dismiss any reason why a crime might have occurred,” Urbina said. “Any police officer, any agent, will never rule out a possible reason for a crime until there’s evidence that leads them to do so.”
Urbina also noted that the investigation into a crime doesn't really change much after it’s been determined that a hate crime had occurred. Any change in procedure at that point would likely have more to do with deciding whether it’s a state case, a federal case or both. El Paso assailant Patrick Crusius, for example, faced a state murder charge and a federal hate crime charge. “It’s very nuanced, it’s not really cut and dried,” Urbina said.
“Investigators can’t jump to conclusions,” she said. “They want to make sure they have enough evidence to support whatever their conclusion is. The conclusion they draw has to be supported by evidence… it takes time.”