Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2018 –

Posted By on May 16, 2019

The COE tracks extremist-related murders connected to all forms of extremism, including right-wing extremism, left-wing extremism and domestic Islamist extremism, as well as less common forms.

When extremists adhere to or are influenced by more than one extremist movement, they are categorized here by their apparent primary ideology, i.e., the ideology that seems to be most important to them, is the most recently followed or, if applicable, that seems most directly related to the murders they committed.

The case of Corey Johnson is an example of someone with a history of multiple extremist affiliations. In March 2018, Johnson, a 17-year-old high school student from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, carried out an allegedly premeditated stabbing rampage during a sleepover at another house, killing a 13-year-old child and severely injured two other people.2

Johnson reportedly had a history of fascination with white supremacy and Nazism. One police report from an earlier incident involving Johnson characterized him as liking extremists, Fascists, Hitler and referred to the teen as a White Supremacist. However, by late 2016, Johnson had become enamored with radical Islamist ideas and allegedly converted to Islam. Johnson even reportedly attempted to reach out to ISIS, attracting the attention of both local and federal law enforcement, who also linked him to a threat to kill Infidels at a British school. After his arrest, Johnson reportedly told police he had committed the stabbings because his victims disrespected his religion.3

Corey Johnson. (Photo: Palm Beach Gardens Police Department)

To be included in the tally of extremist-related killings, it is not enough for an incident, by its nature, to seem as if it could have been committed by an extremist. Rather, there must be positive evidence connecting the murderer to an extremist group or movement. This is why one deadly incident that many have speculated had ties to white supremacy is not included in this report: the Kroger grocery store shootings of October 2018.

In this incident, Gregory Bush, a white man, opened fire in a Krogers supermarket in a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky. He killed one person, then killed a second person in the parking lot outside. Both victims were African-American. Bush has been charged with federal hate crimes in this case, in part because of a surveillance video showing Bush unsuccessfully attempting to enter a historically African-American church shortly before the Krogers attack. Bush also allegedly told a witness of the shootings during the incident that whites dont kill whites.4

Bush does allegedly have a history of making some racist remarksincluding against his ex-wife, who is African-Americanbut so far, no evidence has emerged to connect him to the white supremacist movement or its ideology (nor would it be common for a full-fledged white supremacist to marry an African-American person or raise a biracial child). Because of this, Bushs crimes are not included herealthough if evidence of white supremacist ties on his part were to emerge in the future, he would be added at that point.5

The Bush attack notwithstanding, white supremacists were responsible for the great majority of extremist-related killings in 2018, which is the case almost every year. Right-wing extremists were responsible for 49 (or 98%) of the 50 domestic extremist-related killings in 2018, with white supremacists alone accounting for 39 (or 78%) of those murders. Anti-government extremists (primarily sovereign citizens) were responsible for eight (or 16%) of the deaths.

Scott Paul Beierle in a Leon County Sheriff's Department Booking Photo.

The remaining two 2018 deaths, both stemming from a single incident, are worth special mention. In November 2018, Scott Paul Beierle opened fire inside a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, killing two people and wounding four more. Beierle also pistol-whipped someone who tried to intervene. He then killed himself. In the wake of the attack, Buzzfeed and the Associated Press revealed that Beierle had made a series of racist and misogynistic YouTube videosone titled The Rebirth of My Misogynismthat revealed deep-seated hatred towards women, particularly women in interracial relationships who had ostensibly betrayed their blood. In one of these videos, Beierle referenced Elliot Rodger, whose 2014 stabbing and shooting spree in California left six dead and 14 wounded and was motivated primarily by misogynistic rage.6

Beierle appears to have identified with the so-called incels, or involuntary celibates, a movement that consists primarily of men who externalize their rage and unhappiness over their inability to form meaningful relationships with women. Incels are part of a larger universe of mostly online right-wing misogyny, sometimes called the manosphere, which includes sub-categories such as men going their own way and pickup artists. Rodgers 2014 murders were the first known example of deadly incel-inspired violence and he continues to inspire like-minded men today. In April 2018, self-described incel Alek Minassian conducted a vehicular attack in Toronto, Canada, killing 10 and injuring 16 more. In a Facebook post made just before the attack, Minassian referenced Rodger.

The COE is now tracking incel-inspired acts of violence in its murders and terrorism databasesand has added Rodgers 2014 spree to its records, as well.

While some of 2018s right-wing related murders received considerable publicity, with the tragedy at the Tree of Life garnering attention worldwide, other killings remained largely under the radar. This includes another white supremacist-related murder in Pittsburgh, which occurred not long before the synagogue shooting. In August, white supremacist Joden Rocco was charged with homicide for stabbing an African-American man to death outside a bar where Rocco was denied entry. Prior to the incident, Rocco made an Instagram video in which he discussed how he and friends were planning to go from bar to bar to see how many times they could repeat the n-word to bartenders before being thrown out.7

This incident is noteworthy not just for the shocking and unprovoked nature of this attack, but also because Rocco used social media to announce his racist bar-hopping plans. Robert Bowers, the Tree of Life shooter, used the social media site Gab to broadcast his attack on the synagogue, proclaiming Screw your optics, Im going in. As noted above, Beierle used YouTube as a platform for his misogyny and Minassian used Facebook to publicize his own attack. As social media has become ubiquitous, extremists have grown more likely to use these platforms to announce their beliefs and plans, including even deadly acts. In 2015, Dylann Roof created a website to host the manifesto he used to justify his murderous attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolinathe next Dylann Roof may simply post his intentions to his social media feeds.8

Domestic Islamist extremists were responsible for only one of the 50 killings documented in 2018, a sharp drop from recent years and the lowest figure since 2012, the last year when no such killings took place. Unlike the last several years, there was no domestic Islamist extremist mass casualty event such as a shooting spree or vehicular attack in 2018. Compared to right-wing extremists, domestic Islamist extremists in the U.S. have been involved in far fewer lethal incidentsbut a number of those attacks have been high-casualty events, including most notably the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, which left 49 dead.

The fact that only one person was killed by a domestic Islamist extremist in the U.S. in 2018 should not be taken as an indication that the threat posed by this form of extremism has diminished. A number of domestic Islamist extremists were arrested in 2018 for a variety of crimes, from terrorist plots to providing material support to terrorism.

Finally, it should be noted that we report no killings in 2018 related to left-wing extremism, a category in which we include traditional left-wing extremism, left-wing single-issue movements, anarchists and black nationalists. In a sense, this is not unusual, in that left-wing extremists have not been particularly violent over the past 20 years, and most of the violence that has emerged from that quarter has been directed at property rather than people. ADLs data shows just 15 murders linked to left-wing extremism over the past 20 years, with 13 of the 15 fatalities occurring in 2016 and 2017, all linked to black nationalists. It should be noted that Tierre Guthrie, the perpetrator of one of 2018s anti-government extremist-related murders, may have also had black nationalist leanings.9

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Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2018 -

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