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Texas gunman wore 'Right Wing Death Squad' patch

The shooter's vest had a patch with an insignia associated with violent, far-right extremists.
Texas gunman wore 'Right Wing Death Squad' patch
Posted at 8:39 PM, May 08, 2023

Scripps News identified images from the Texas shooter's social media showing a tactical vest with a far-right extremist patch, posted in April. They were first shared by Aric Toler, with Scripps partner Bellingcat.

The patch shows an insignia with acronym RWDS, which stands for "Right Wing Death Squad."

Analysts say they have been seeing the insignia for some five years often on violent, far-right extremists. The insignia was also featured on Proud Boys who burned a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church in the nation's capital weeks before the Jan. 6 riot.

"What it refers to specifically is the Pinochet regime in Chile from the 70s and the 80s. They would take their enemies, usually who they called communists and literally throw them out of helicopters, killing them. And they called the people who did this stuff Right Wing Death Squads," said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. 

"The phrase right wing death squad got resurrected in the United States because right wing extremists here admired the violent forces of Latin American dictators who did things like throw communists out of helicopters to their deaths. And so they were sort of trying to suggest that they were the they had inherited that that attitude against the left wing," said Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism. 

For years, RWDS merchandise has been sold online as clothing, patches, stickers, emblems, even shields for street fighting — especially by the Proud Boys.

"The Proud Boys for a long time had a website called 1776 Shop, and they sold all kinds of merchandise with Proud Boys names on it and so on. But they also sold t-shirts that celebrated South American dictators who led violent regimes, they sold t-shirts that featured helicopters with bodies being thrown out of them, and they sold these patches," Beirich said. 

Images posted online also show a former Proud Boy, the government's key witness in a recent Proud Boys sedition trial, supporting the right wing dictator Pinochet and wearing the "Right Wing Death Squad" emblem.

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