The FBI and law enforcement officials in Austin, Texas are searching for the motive of the shooter who opened fire on the Mexican Consulate, the Federal Courthouse, and the Austin Police Department Headquarters early Friday morning before he was shot dead by police. An Austin police bomb robot was brought in to examine a suspicious device left near police headquarters, however no improvised explosive device was found.
Austin Police responded to the first of several 911 calls at 2:22 a.m. reporting shots fired in the eastern end of downtown Austin’s entertainment district. An Austin police officer who was putting away horses for the night reportedly shot the suspect with one hand while holding two horses by the reins in the other. The suspected gunman later died as a result of a gun shot wound.
Austin Police Chief, Art Acevedo told reporters during a press conference on Friday morning, that over one hundred shots were fired in the area. The suspected gunman also unloaded a small green cylinder which ignited a fire at the consulate. The fire was put out before it could spread. Police Chief Acevedo described the suspect as a 50-year-old white male from Austin with a criminal history, but didn’t immediately release his name. U.S. Marshals are still investigating a related shooting outside of the Austin Federal Courthouse
Interestingly, Austin police officers participated in a surprise drill on Monday night, the same night the grand jury decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri was announced. Austin police did not say if the drill was related to the Ferguson case.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has yet to provide lawmakers with a single, clear definition of terrorism. Therefore, the old adage “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” still prevails. In 1994, the FBI Terrorist Research and Analytic Center defined domestic terrorism as:
“the unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Police in Austin suspect that the lone gunman in Friday’s shooting targeted the Mexican Consulate, the Federal Courthouse, and the Austin Police Department Headquarters – all government buildings. The suspect was likely a “lone wolf.” U.S. Rep. King criticized the handling of the first Fort Hood shooting in October, 2009. In a hearing before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee in February, 2011, then Chairman Rep. King pointed out that although the Fort Hood massacre clearly fit the definition of terrorism, it was not until Jan. 15, 2010, that hesitant officials referred to the act as terrorism.
Historically, in the U.S., terrorism has been a term reserved for those of middle eastern decent. However, government officials are stepping up attempts to include Mexicans in the U.S. definition of terrorism. The April 19, 1995, terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma — the worst attack on American soil before 9/11, is still referred to as the Oklahoma City “bombing.” Convicted terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are most often described as extremists or white supremacists and most Americans still refer to the attack as the “Oklahoma City bombing” rather than terrorism.