Officials from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office (SJCSO) in New Mexico dismissed the findings of a recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center that documented the influence of the alt-right on William Edward Atchison, the 21-year-old man who killed two students — Francisco I. Fernandez and Casey J. Marquez — and himself at his former high school last December.
Speaking to the Associated Press (AP) on Wednesday, Bryce Current, the internal affairs captain for SJCSO, alleged that the report was an attempt to “politicize” the tragedy, stating, “I don’t think this has anything to do with political agenda.”
Jayme Harcrow, a SJCSO spokeswoman, also told the AP that investigators hadn’t found evidence tying Atchison’s motivations to the alt-right.
The SPLC report, however, did not allege that Atchison was necessarily motivated to perpetrate the shooting by the alt-right’s misogyny and racism, but rather that he spent years stewing in the online communities and propaganda that define the ideology and intentionally foster grievance, injustice, and resentment — all well-documented predictors of mass violence.
A detailed investigation into Atchison’s online presence conducted by the Daily Beast revealed that the troubled young man spent his days online creating pro-Trump memes, posting violent threats, and glorifying school shooters. He modeled his pseudonyms after mass shooters such as Adam Lanza, the notorious perpetrator of the Sandy Hook shooting, and Anders Breivik, the racist Norwegian shooter who killed 77 and injured 319 in 2011. Other pseudonyms included “Future Mass Shooter” and “School Shooter.”
Atchison also allegedly frequented the Daily Stormer, the racist alt-right’s most notorious website, in addition to other known online communities favored by the alt-right, such as EncyclopediaDramatica, Kiwi Farms, 4chan and various videogame forums.
Atchison’s affinity for and participation at the Daily Stormer was affirmed by the site’s administrator, Andrew Auernheimer, in a recent episode of his radio show. Auernheimer, who goes by “Weev” online, also stated that Atchison had written to him on social media.
“Last week we had an event happen where a kid that was an alleged Daily Stormer reader,” Weev told his guest, Mike Peinovich of the Right Stuff. “William Edward Atchison, he went to a school and he shot two s---- and then he shot himself. It’s a little bit surreal. I don’t doubt this kid read the Daily Stormer. He left comments on my wall.”
According to the Daily Beast, Atchison also posted racist screeds on Steam, a videogame platform, which featured obvious themes from the alt-right.
“How am I supposed to function in this world? Wherever I go, I see degeneracy. Pointless materialism, hedonism, sexual decay, dirty n**gers who do nothing but slowly break down this society etc.” Atchison wrote in November, a month before his deadly acts.
“It’s f------ everywhere. No way to escape it, 99% of people are part of it and whatever I do I am confronted with the death of the West. Go to the store and buy groceries in peace? Nope, here’s a group of LGBT liberal filth in line with you. And there’s a n**ger family with 10 kids over there. And a Finn too, but he’s overweight as f--- and he’s buying alcohol and shit junk food. F------ fantastic.”
The ADL also reported on Atchison’s prolific antisemitism in his online gaming life.
The FBI visited Atchison at his parent’s home in March 2016 after he posted about weapons that might be used in a mass shooting in an online gaming forum. At the time, the agents determined that he was trolling and was not planning to perpetrate a shooting.
When contacted by the AP for Wednesday’s story, FBI spokesman Frank Fisher declined to comment on whether Atchison’s online posting history did indeed link him to the alt-right.
There has been controversy over the San Juan County sheriff recently. San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen made local headlines last month by reasserting President Trump’s remarks about “shit hole” countries on his Facebook page, writing, “I think they are the s-holes of the whole world. There have been a few people that think, no matter what the President says, he’s a racist and that’s not it at all, it has nothing to do with race.”
Speaking to a reporter for KRQE News, Christesen defended his comments and continued, “We’ve been politically correct for far too long. It’s refreshing to hear the truth without being filtered.”
The New Mexico Hate Crimes Act defines a crime “motivated by hate” as the “commission of a crime with the intent to commit the crime because of the actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, age, handicapped status, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim, whether or not the offender’s belief or perception was correct.”
The statute also includes a provision requiring all state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies to provide the FBI with data about the commission of hate crimes in accordance with the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act.
Given Atchison’s disturbing life online, the SJCSO has a responsibility to investigate hate as a potential motivation for Atchison’s deadly rampage. If he was indeed motivated by hate, Fernandez and Marquez have a right to be counted and recognized among the victims of hate violence in this country.