According to Bill Morlin of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Larry Steve McQuilliams, the man who went on a shooting spree in downtown Austin last weekend, was a member of a Christian Identity movement known as the Phineas Priesthood.
Why did this act of terrorism get so little media attention?
Armed with a .22-caliber long rifle and a rifle similar to an AK 47, investigators said Larry McQuilliams shot into four buildings in Austin, Texas early Friday morning. They added that 100 rounds were shot at Austin Police headquarters, before Sergeant Adam Johnson ended the attack by shooting him.
In a news conference Monday afternoon, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo bluntly described Larry McQuilliams.
“This man, by no means can you call him anything but an extremist. And if you look at what he did, he terrorized a city. He’s just an American terrorist,” said Acevedo.
“This man took one shot from approximately 312 feet away in the dark, single-handed, while holding the reigns of two horses,” said Acevedo of Sergeant Adam Johnson. “He feels very strongly that there was some divine intervention.”
Some might consider that ironic, considering that police found extremist religious ideology in the van McQuilliams rented to carry out his attack. Investigators found the book “Vigilantes of Christiandom, the story of the Phineas Priesthood” which was written by a white supremacist and condemns mixing races.
“The Phineas Priesthood is really not a group or an organization at all. It is a concept,” explained Mark Potok, Senior Fellow at the civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Basically his idea is that if a person performs a so-called Phineas action, which is, meaning to murder people who have relationships across the races, then they are automatically a member of the Phineas Priesthood.”
Mark Pitcavage, Director of the Center on Extremism for the Anti-Defamation League said the last time a terrorist act was linked to the Phineas Priesthood was in 1999, so experts aren’t worried about more acts based of the book.
They are, however, concerned about lone wolf terrorists. According to the Anti-Defamation League there have been 48 shootouts between police and extremists in the U.S. in the last five years. It’s a concern Acevedo shares.
“Let me tell you what keeps me up at night. It’s these guys,” said Acevedo. “It’s these homegrown extremist that are lone wolves, that are mad at the world, that are angry. And that’s why it’s important for us as Americans to know our neighbors.”
Police say McQuilliams mapped out 34 places to attack, including two churches. He had the phrase “let me die” written in marker on his chest and his funeral clothes laid out on his bed at home.
He had served time in prison for a bank robbery and had several other arrests in Texas and Kansas.