DHS warns of domestic violent extremists who praise Uvalde school shooting

Public gatherings, faith-based institutions and racial and religious minorities may be targets, officials say.

ByLuke Barr ABCNews logo
Tuesday, June 7, 2022
EXAMINED: Gun Violence in America
ABC News talks to experts who examine America's history with guns, the real-life impacts of gun violence and what can be done going forward to mitigate the problem.

WASHINGTON -- After extremists praised last month's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and called for at least one copycat attack, the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday warned of a "heightened" threat environment.

Law enforcement uses the term "domestic violent extremist" to label those from a broad swath of the ideological spectrum from racially motivated extremists to white supremacists.

The National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin which was reissued on Tuesday, said domestic violent extremists are propagating disinformation.

"Others have seized on the event to attempt to spread disinformation and incite grievances, including claims it was a government-staged event meant to advance gun control measures," the bulletin said, referring to the Uvalde school shooting.

MORE: All Republicans in US Senate vote against domestic terrorism bill in wake of Uvalde, Texas massacre

Democrats' first attempt at responding to the back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, has failed in the Senate.

This is the sixth time DHS has issued the NTAS bulletin since, the beginning of the Biden administration.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the threat environment "heightened."

SEE ALSO: Mass shootings in the U.S. have nearly tripled since 2013, data shows

"As recent acts of violence in communities across the country have so tragically demonstrated, the nation remains in a heightened threat environment, and we expect that environment will become more dynamic in the coming months," Mayorkas said.

Public gatherings, faith-based institutions, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and critical infrastructure may be targets of domestic violent extremists, a DHS official told reporters on a conference call.

"We do expect that the threat environment is likely to become more dynamic as several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets," the official said.

SEE ALSO: FBI tapes show white supremacists plot mass murder to start race war

ABC News has obtained audio from the FBI's recording of Patrik Jordan Mathews and Brian Mark Lemley Jr., who are members of a white supremacist group.

The official said DHS is seeing threats from the "ideological spectrum" of actors, but did not offer more specifics.

Officials also said they are concerned about the midterm elections, because some could still be holding onto grievances from the 2020 presidential election. Officials say they are also concerned about possible fallout from an expected Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, as ABC News has previously reported.

"Given a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case about abortion rights, individuals who advocate both for and against abortion have, on public forums, encouraged violence, including against government, religious, and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies," DHS officials wrote.

The bulletin said issues along the southern border could also present a trigger point for extremists.

"Some domestic violent extremists have expressed grievances related to their perception that the U.S. government is unwilling or unable to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and have called for violence to stem the flow of undocumented migrants to the United States," the bulletin said. "We assess that there is increased risk of domestic violent extremists using changes in border security-related policies and/or enforcement mechanisms to justify violence against individuals, such as minorities and law enforcement officials involved in the enforcement of border security."

WATCH: How law enforcement narrative of Uvalde mass shooting changed

Authorities in Texas have come under scrutiny for the shifting narrative about crucial elements of the police response, ABC News reports.

The Department also hasn't taken their eye off of foreign terrorists.

"Foreign terrorist organizations will likely continue to use online platforms to attempt to inspire U.S.-based individuals to engage in violent activity."

John Cohen, the former acting undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at DHS, told ABC News this isn't new.

"This bulletin reinforces what DHS and FBI have been telling the American people over the past year and a half," Cohen, who is now an ABC News contributor, said.

He added, "The Nation faces a terrorism threat environment that is volatile, complex and dangerous. Lone offenders continue to engage in targeted acts of violence inspired by extremist or other content posted online. The tempo of these attacks are increasing. And these ideologically motivated attacks are occurring at the same time that localities across the nation are experiencing increased levels of violent crime. These are incredible challenging times for law enforcement and communities across the Nation."