We don’t really know anything yet about what caused Trystan Terrell, a 22-year-old former student, to walk into a classroom in the Kennedy Building on the campus of UNC-Charlotte and start shooting at about 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, the last day of classes.
We do know that he lived in Novel NoDa, an upscale and trendy apartment complex. We know that his voter registration indicates that he’s white and registered as a Libertarian. On Wednesday morning, Chancellor Philip Dubois identified the two students who were killed as Ellis Parlier, 19, and Riley Howell, 21. Voting records indicate Parlier is white, while Howell’s race is unknown. Among four others who were wounded in the shooting, local media has identified Drew Pescaro, a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Pescaro was released from the hospital on Tuesday night.
The day opened with reports that the FBI had arrested another young man on the other side of the country who was planning to carry out an attack with the intent of causing mass casualties. According to an unsealed affidavit by FBI Special Agent Tasha Coolidge, Mark Steven Domingo, a US Army veteran with combat experience in Afghanistan, purchased several hundred nails at a home improvement store in Los Angeles and gave them to an undercover agent whom he believed to be a collaborator to manufacture an explosive device intended for use in an upcoming attack.
According to the affidavit, Domingo, a convert to Islam, was angered by the March 13 shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which took the lives of 50 people, and wrote on social media: “I feel like I should make a christians [sic] life miserable tomorrow for our fallen bros n sis in new Zealand […] maybe a jews life idk […] they shed our blood […] no Muslim should have to experience this, a message needs to be sent.”
Domingo reportedly mused that he could gun down Jews as they walked from a distant parking lot to worship at a local synagogue. Jews would be an odd target, considering that the perpetrators of both the Christchurch mosque shooting and the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting were motivated by white-power ideology fueled by a false assertion that white people are the victims of genocide. The linkage between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism was made abundantly clear by revelations that the shooter who killed a woman during services at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 27 was inspired by both the Christchurch and Pittsburgh shootings, and had also recently set fire to a mosque.
The notion that anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other hatreds spring from the same fascist ideology seems to have escaped Domingo, who is reported to have variously contemplated attacks on homeless people, police officers and white nationalists. Yet chillingly, the affidavit sworn by Agent Coolidge suggests that Domingo harbored a preoccupation with revolutionary chaos and mutual escalation that mirrors the strategy of alleged white-power terrorists like Christopher Hasson, the Coast Guard lieutenant arrested for drugs in February while plotting to instigate a race war that he hoped would lead to the creation of a white “homeland.” In a 2017 manifesto uncovered by FBI investigators, Hasson discussed carrying out biological attacks, coupled with a bombing and sniping campaign, and also targeted killings of professors, politicians, judges and journalists. But he also sought to exploit violence as a viral phenomenon, writing, “During unrest target both sides to increase tension. In other words provoke gov/police to over reach which should help escalate violence. BLM [Black Lives Matter] protests or other left crap would be ideal to incite to violence.”
In the aftermath of Brenton Tarrant’s heinous attack in Christchurch in March, anonymous users on the social media platform Gab — a haven for white power extremists — posited that an escalation beyond “lone wolf” attacks was required to maintain the momentum, while also eagerly anticipating retaliation.
“It’s only begun, eventually the tit-for-tat counter-attacks won’t be able to be swept under the rug and a repeating, escalating cycle will begin,” crowed a user named Ó Súilleabháin (whose handle @GeorgeRockwellLovesYou pays homage to the late American Nazi Party leader). “There is no de-escalation at this point, it’s inevitable.”
According to the FBI investigator on Mark Domingo’s tail, he wrote on March 3: “America needs another vegas event tbh something to kick off civil unrest […] and its not about winning the civil war its about weakening america give them a taste of the terror they so gladly spread all over the world.”
It’s probably wise to recognize that just because an assortment of madmen reach the same conclusions, it doesn’t mean they’re knowingly colluding with one another.
The painful truth is it’s hard to know where the next attack will come from or what will motivate it.