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8 killed in Texas outlet mall shooting

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8 killed in Texas outlet mall shooting…

ALLEN, Texas (AP) — Federal officials are looking into whether the gunman who killed eight people at a Dallas-area mall expressed an interest in white supremacist ideology Sunday as they work to discern a motive for the attack, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official cautioned the investigation is in its early stages.

Federal agents have been reviewing social media accounts they believe were used by Mauricio Garcia, 33, and posts that expressed interest in white supremacist and neo-Nazi views, said the official, who could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Garcia also had a patch on his chest when he was killed by police that read “RWDS,” an acronym for the phrase “Right Wing Death Squad,” which is popular among right-wing extremists and white supremacy groups, the official said.

In addition to reviewing social media posts, federal agents have interviewed family members and associates of Garcia to ask about his ideological beliefs, the official said. Investigators are also reviewing financial records, other online posts they believe Garcia made and other electronic media, according to the official.

Allen Police Chief Brian Harvey declined Sunday evening to answer questions from the AP, saying of the investigation, “we actually don’t have a lot.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety identified Garcia as suspected of killing eight people at a Texas outlet mall, a day after the attack turned an afternoon of shopping into a massacre.

Garcia was fatally shot Saturday by a police officer who happened to be near the suburban Dallas mall.

A law enforcement official said investigators have been searching a Dallas motel near an interstate where Garcia had been staying. The official said police also found multiple weapons at the scene after Garcia was killed, including an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun.

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Two law enforcement officials said investigators also searched a Dallas home connected to the suspect. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of an ongoing investigation.

A woman who lives three houses down from the low brick house said she saw a large group of uniformed officers go into the home Saturday between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“They went in like real fast, and I seen them do that like twice,” said Marsha Alexander, who said officers were still in the area when she went to bed around 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. They were gone by Sunday morning.

On Sunday afternoon, a woman named Julie was sitting on the porch of her house, next door to the one searched the day before. She declined to give her last name to an AP reporter but said she awoke from a nap around 6 p.m. Saturday to see four police squad cars and a large group of officers outside her neighbor’s home.

She said they entered the home and were joined about an hour later by FBI agents and other people wearing plainclothes, who she also took to be law enforcement.

The woman said she did not know her neighbors well, but knew them to be “very polite, very nice people.” She said the man she now understands to have been the shooter was always friendly and would wave or honk his horn as he came and went.

At about 2 p.m. Sunday, a man entered the home that was searched, but when reporters knocked on the door and waited, no one answered.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said the assailant wore tactical gear and fired an AR-15-style weapon. He urged Congress to enact tighter restrictions on firearms and ammunition.

“Such an attack is too shocking to be so familiar. And yet, American communities have suffered roughly 200 mass shootings already this year, according to leading counts,” said Biden, who ordered flags lowered to half-staff.

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Republicans in Congress, he said, “cannot continue to meet this epidemic with a shrug.”

The shooting was the latest attack to contribute to the unprecedented pace of mass killings this year in the U.S. Barely a week before, five people were fatally shot in Cleveland, Texas, after a neighbor asked a man to stop firing his weapon while a baby slept, authorities said.

This year has seen an average of about one mass killing per week, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.

Information about the gunman in Allen emerged as the community mourned the dead and awaited word on the seven people who were wounded. Authorities have not publicly identified those who were killed.

The wounded remained hospitalized Sunday, three in critical condition and four in fair condition, the Allen Police Department said in a statement.

John Mark Caton, senior pastor at Cottonwood Creek Church about two miles from the mall, offered prayers during a regular Sunday morning service for victims, first responders and the shoppers and employees who “walked out past things they never should have seen.”

“Some of our people were there. Some perhaps in this room. Some of our students were working in those stores and will be changed forever by this,” Caton said.

Caton offered similar sentiments during a Sunday night vigil at the church attended by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has signed laws easing firearms restrictions following past mass shootings in Texas, and other elected leaders. Earlier that day, Abbott said on Fox News that Texas wouldn’t enact gun control now.

“People want a quick solution,” Abbott said. “The long term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”

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The attack unfolded at Allen Premium Outlets, a sprawling outdoor shopping center. Witnesses reported seeing children among the victims. Some said they also saw what appeared to be a police officer and a mall security guard unconscious on the ground.

Andria Gaither, the assistant manager at the Tommy Hilfiger clothing store, said Sunday she was at the back of the store Saturday afternoon when she saw two young girls trying to hide in a dressing room. At first, she thought they were playing. Then she heard one say shots were being fired.

Gaither looked around to see customers and the store manager running to the back of the store. Eventually, Gaither and the others ran out a back door.

“As soon as I got outside the back of the store, you could hear the shooting,” Gaither said Sunday. “It was so loud. I’d never ever heard anything like that in my life. It was deafening.”

Allen, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of downtown Dallas and with a population of about 105,000 residents, is among the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s diverse suburbs. The area saw the largest Asian American growth rate of any major U.S. metro area, according to U.S. Census figures. Those statistics show Allen’s population is about 19% Asian, 10% Black and 11% Hispanic.

Allen also is connected to another of Texas’ recent mass shootings. Patrick Crusius lived there in 2019 before he posted a racist screed online that warned of a “Hispanic invasion” and drove to El Paso, where he opened fire at a Walmart, killing 23. Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and weapons charges in February.

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Balsamo reported from Washington, and Stengle reported from Dallas. Associated Press writers Vanessa Alvarez in New York, James Vertuno in Austin, Adam Kealoha Causey in Dallas, Gene Johnson in Seattle and Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

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Texas’ diversity, equity and inclusion ban has led to more than 100 job cuts at state universities

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Texas’ diversity, equity and inclusion ban has led to more than 100 job cuts at state universities

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A ban on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in higher education has led to more than 100 job cuts across university campuses in Texas, a hit echoed or anticipated in numerous other states where lawmakers are rolling out similar policies during an important election year.

Universities throughout Texas rushed to make changes after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law last year. On April 2, the president of the 52,000-student University of Texas at Austin — one of the largest college campuses in the U.S. — sent an email saying the school was shuttering the Division of Campus and Community Engagement and eliminating jobs in order to comply with the ban, which went into effect on Jan. 1.

More than 60 University of Texas at Austin staff members were terminated as a result of the law, according to the Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors. The group said it compiled the list based on affected employees who had reached out and that the number could be greater. University officials declined to confirm the number of positions eliminated.

Officials at other schools, in response to inquiries from The Associated Press, indicated that a total of 36 positions were eliminated between Texas A&M University in College Station; Texas Tech University in Lubbock; Texas State University in San Marcos; The University of Houston; Sam Houston State University in Huntsville; and Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Officials said no one was let go; people were assigned to new jobs, some resigned and vacant positions were closed.

Earlier this week, University of Texas at Dallas officials announced that approximately 20 associate jobs would be eliminated in compliance with the law. University officials declined to comment on how many of those positions are currently filled.

Texas House of Representatives Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, applauded the University of Texas actions in a post on the social media platform X. “It is a victory for common sense and proof that the Legislature’s actions are working,” Phelan wrote.

Texas is among five states that have recently passed legislation targeting DEI programs. At least 20 others are considering it.

Florida was the first to implement a ban, last year, with the vocal backing of then-Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis, who often derides DEI and similar diversity efforts as “woke” policies of the left. In response to the law, the University of Florida last month announced more than a dozen terminations.

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FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, photo, ivy grows near the lettering of an entrance to the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. A ban on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in higher education has led to more than 100 job cuts across university campuses in Texas, a hit echoed or anticipated in numerous other states where lawmakers are rolling out similar policies during an important election year. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

 

FILE – In this Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, photo, ivy grows near the lettering of an entrance to the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

 

Universities of Wisconsin regents reached a deal with Republican lawmakers in December to limit DEI positions at the system’s two dozen campuses in exchange for getting funds for staff raises and construction projects. The deal imposed a hiring freeze on diversity positions through 2026, and shifted more than 40 diversity-related positions to focus on “student success.”

Republican legislators who oppose DEI programs say they are discriminatory and promote left-wing ideology. Some are counting on the issue to resonate with voters during this election year. Democratic DEI supporters say the programs are necessary to ensure that institutions meet the needs of increasingly diverse student populations. Lawmakers from the party have filed about two dozen bills in 11 states that would require or promote DEI initiatives.

Texas’ anti-DEI law, which Abbott enthusiastically signed last year, prohibits training and activities conducted “in reference to race, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” Additionally, the law, also known by its legislative title, SB17, forbids staff members from making hiring decisions that are influenced by race, sex, color or ethnicity, and prohibits promoting “differential” or “preferential” treatment or “special” benefits for people based on these categories.

SB17 states that the ban doesn’t apply to academic course instruction and scholarly research. That’s why professor Aquasia Shaw was so surprised to hear last week that her supervisor was not going to renew her contract. Shaw said she was not given a reason for the termination, but considering the timing, she suspects it’s the new law.

 
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FILE - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference Friday, March 1, 2024, in Borger, Texas. Texas' ban on diversity, equity and inclusion instruction has resulted in more than 100 jobs being cut at University of Texas campuses across the state — providing a glimpse of the potential impact of such bans being implemented in other Republican-controlled states. Abbott signed a law last year prohibiting DEI initiatives in public higher education. (Elías Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News via AP, File)

 

FILE – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference Friday, March 1, 2024, in Borger, Texas. (Elías Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News via AP, File)

 

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Shaw taught courses on the intersection of sociology, sports and cultural studies in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Her faculty page on the university’s website states her focus as “sociology of sport and cultural studies, sport management and diversity, inclusion and social justice.” A course she taught this semester was titled Race and Sports in African American Life. But she said she had not been involved in any DEI initiatives outside of her teaching.

“I was under the impression that teaching and research was protected so … I am trying to grapple with the idea and in denial that this can’t be the reason I was targeted,” she said.

In March, Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, who authored SB17, sent a letter to public university boards of regents across the state, inviting them to testify in May about the changes that have been made to achieve compliance. He included a warning that renaming programs, rather than changing their intent, would not be sufficient.

Creighton’s office did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The law’s impact was felt in Texas even before it went into effect. In anticipation, University of Texas at Austin officials last year changed the school’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement to the Division of Campus and Community Engagement. The name change didn’t save it — it was closed this month. School officials said some of the division’s projects would be relocated, while others would be shut down. They did not provide specifics.

Shaw said she was the only person of color in her department. She said she saw on X that other university employees had been let go and began connecting with them. At least 10 of the other terminated faculty and staff members whom she contacted are also from minority groups, she said.

The loss of her job was a big blow to Shaw, who had already scheduled classes for this summer and fall. She said her superiors had previously told her they hoped to renew her contract.

“I am so disheartened to see that exactly what I was concerned about ended up happening anyway,” Shaw said.

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Dallas doctor convicted of tampering with IV bags linked to coworker’s death and other emergencies

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Dallas doctor convicted of tampering with IV bags linked to coworker’s death and other emergencies

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas anesthesiologist was convicted Friday for injecting a nerve-blocking agent and other drugs into bags of intravenous fluid at a surgical center where he worked, which led to the death of a coworker and caused cardiac emergencies for several patients, federal prosecutors said.

A jury convicted Raynaldo Riviera Ortiz Jr., 60, of four counts of tampering with consumer products resulting in serious bodily injury, one count of tampering with a consumer product and five counts of intentional adulteration of a drug, prosecutors said. A sentencing date has not yet been set for Ortiz, who faces up to 190 years in prison.

“Dr. Ortiz cloaked himself in the white coat of a healer, but instead of curing pain, he inflicted it,” U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton for the northern district of Texas said in a video statement.

Prosecutors said that evidence presented at trial showed that numerous patients at Surgicare North Dallas suffered cardiac emergencies during routine medical procedures performed by various doctors between May 2022 and August 2022. During that time, an anesthesiologist who had worked at the facility earlier that day died while treating herself for dehydration using an IV bag.

Prosecutors said Ortiz, who was arrested in September 2022, had surreptitiously placed the tainted IV bags into a warming bin at the facility and waited for them to be used in his colleagues’ surgeries.

Evidence presented at trial showed that at the time of the emergencies, Ortiz was facing disciplinary action for an alleged medical mistake made in one of his own surgeries, prosecutors said.

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Texas woman sues prosecutors who charged her with murder after she self-managed an abortion

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Texas woman sues prosecutors who charged her with murder after she self-managed an abortion

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A Texas woman who was charged with murder over self-managing an abortion and spent two nights in jail has sued prosecutors along the U.S.-Mexico border who put the criminal case in motion before it was later dropped.

The lawsuit filed by Lizelle Gonzalez in federal court Thursday comes a month after the State Bar of Texas fined and disciplined the district attorney in rural Starr County over the case in 2022, when Gonzalez was charged with murder in “the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.”

Under the abortion restrictions in Texas and other states, women who seek abortion are exempt from criminal charges.

The lawsuit argues Gonzalez suffered harm from the arrest and subsequent media coverage. She is seeking $1 million in damages.

“The fallout from Defendants’ illegal and unconstitutional actions has forever changed the Plaintiff’s life,” the lawsuit stated.

Starr County District Attorney Gocha Ramirez said Friday that he had not yet been served the lawsuit and declined comment. Starr County Judge Eloy Vera, the county’s top elected official, also declined comment.

According to the lawsuit, Gonzalez was 19 weeks pregnant when she used misoprostol, one of two drugs used in medication abortions. Misoprostol is also used to treat stomach ulcers.

After taking the pills, Gonzalez received an obstetrical examination at the hospital emergency room and was discharged with abdominal pain. She returned with bleeding the next day and an exam found no fetal heartbeat. Doctors performed a caesarian section to deliver a stillborn baby.

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The lawsuit argues that the hospital violated the patient’s privacy rights when they reported the abortion to the district attorney’s office, which then carried out its own investigation and produced a murder charge against Gonzalez.

Cecilia Garza, an attorney for Gonzalez, said prosecutors pursued an indictment despite knowing that a woman receiving the abortion is exempted from a murder charge by state law.

Ramirez announced the charges would be dropped just days after the woman’s arrest but not before she’d spent two nights in jail and was identified by name as a murder suspect.

In February, Ramirez agreed to pay a $1,250 fine and have his license held in a probated suspension for 12 months in a settlement reached with the State Bar of Texas. He told The Associated Press at the time that he “made a mistake” and agreed to the punishment because it allows his office to keep running and him to keep prosecuting cases.

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