US mass killings linked to right-wing extremism spiked over last decade – ADL report

Study finds main threat in near future to likely be white supremacist shooters; all extremist killings identified in 2022 carried out by people with ties to far-right ideologies

A person pays his respects at a makeshift memorial outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, May 15, 2022. (AP/Matt Rourke, File)
A person pays his respects at a makeshift memorial outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, May 15, 2022. (AP/Matt Rourke, File)

WASHINGTON — The number of US mass killings linked to extremism over the past decade was at least three times higher than the total from any other 10-year period since the 1970s, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League.

The report, provided to The Associated Press ahead of its public release Thursday, also found that all extremist killings identified in 2022 were linked to right-wing extremism, with an especially high number linked to white supremacy. They include a racist mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 Black shoppers dead and a mass shooting that killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that we live in an age of extremist mass killings,” the report from the group’s Center on Extremism says.

Between two and seven extremism-related mass killings occurred every decade from the 1970s to the 2000s, but in the 2010s that number skyrocketed to 21, the report found. The trend has since continued with five extremist mass killings in 2021 and 2022, as many as there were during the first decade of the new millennium.

Two high-profile mass killings in 2022 were not included in the tally because the ADL’s Center on Extremism said it “did not uncover sufficient evidence to confirm any extremist motivation” by the perpetrators. These incidents were the July 4, 2022, mass shooting at a parade in the heavily Jewish Chicago suburb of Highland Park in which seven were killed and over 50 were wounded and the deadly shooting spree two weeks later at the Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, Indiana, where three people were killed and two wounded.

Both shooters had a documented fascination with mass killings and had expressed some extremist sentiment, but law enforcement could not determine that the attacks were motivated by racism or antisemitism, though the report noted that some such beliefs or motives may emerge as they move through the judicial process.

Four women join local residents for a two-minute moment of silence at 10:14 a.m. at the Highland Park, Illinois memorial commemorating the seven people who lost their lives during the town’s Fourth if July parade, July 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

According to the ADL report, the number of victims has risen as well. Between 2010 and 2020, 164 people died in ideological extremist-related mass killings, according to the report. That’s much more than in any other decade except the 1990s, when the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City killed 168 people.

Extremist killings are those carried out by people with ties to extreme movements and ideologies.

Several factors combined to drive the numbers up between 2010 and 2020. There were shootings inspired by the rise of the Islamic State group as well as a handful targeting police officers after civilian shootings and others linked to the increasing promotion of violence by white supremacists, said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the ADL’s Center on Extremism.

Colorado Springs police, the FBI and others investigate the scene of a shooting at Club Q on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. An attacker opened fire in a gay nightclub late Saturday night. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via AP)

The center tracks slayings linked to various forms of extremism in the United States and compiles them in an annual report. It tracked 25 extremism-related killings last year, a decrease from the 33 the year before.

Ninety-three percent of the killings in 2022 were committed with firearms. The report also noted that no police officers were killed by extremists last year, for the first time since 2011.

With the waning of the Islamic State group, “the main threat of extremist-related mass killings seems to be white supremacist shooters attacking targets such as people of color, Jews and Muslims and the LGBTQ+ community,” the report said.

FILE – Investigators stand outside during a moment of silence for the victims of the Buffalo supermarket shooting outside the Tops Friendly Market on May 21, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex, File)

The increase in the number of mass killing attempts, meanwhile, is one of the most alarming trends in recent years, said Center on Extremism Vice President Oren Segal.

“We cannot stand idly by and accept this as the new norm,” Segal said.

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