AUSTIN, Texas (KETK) – Gov. Abbott announced Wednesday that he has formed a Domestic Terrorism Task Force in the wake of the El Paso shooting that killed 22 people.

The shooter later confessed to police that he was trying to “kill as many Mexicans as possible.”

Abbott also directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to increase efforts in combating domestic terrorism, including by having DPS agents assist the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and increasing the number of DPS agents conducting investigations into gangs affiliated with white supremacist groups.

“Our top priority is to keep Texans safe in their communities. Part of that mission is to combat domestic terrorism and root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence in our state. This task force brings together leaders with the expertise Texas needs to develop effective strategies and combat domestic terrorism.”

Gov. Greg Abbott

Gov. Abbott will be in Tyler on Thursday night for a town hall that will be broadcast exclusively on KETK. It is set to start at 7 p.m. at UT Tyler.

With the El Paso shooting fresh on the public’s mind, he is almost certain to face questions on what his administration is doing to protect Texans from these kinds of attacks in the future.

It is one of three significant mass shootings that have occurred in Texas since Abbott took office in 2015.

26 people were killed at Sutherland Springs church in 2017 in what is still the fifth-worst mass shooting in American history. In 2018, 10 people were killed at Sante Fe High School, which was the second-worst school shooting in the country last year behind only Parkland massacre in Florida.

Abbott’s office said the task force will have four main objectives:

  • Analyzing current and emerging threats in Texas, and developing strategies that government entities can take to prevent and respond to such threats.
  • Studying ways to increase interagency cooperation and collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies.
  • Developing model tools, policies, and protocols to assist in fighting domestic terrorism.
  • Providing advice and recommendations regarding state homeland security strategic planning, and relevant legislative recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.

The task force will be comprised of the following members:

  • Governor Greg Abbott
  • Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick
  • Attorney General Ken Paxton 
  • Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen 
  • Colonel Steve McCraw, Department of Public Safety
  • Chief W. Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management
  • Major General Tracy Norris, Texas Military Department
  • Executive Director Amanda Crawford, Texas Department of Information Resources
  • Executive Director Carter Smith, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
  • Members of the United States Customs and Border Patrol
  • Members of the United States Secret Service
  • John Bash, United States Attorney — Western District of Texas 
  • Jeff Murray, Department of Homeland Security
  • Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • K. Sunshine Stanek, District Attorney for Lubbock County
  • Greg Allen, El Paso Police Chief 
  • Sheriff Eddie Guerra, Hidalgo County
  • Captain Anthony Carter, Collin County Sheriff’s Office, North Texas Fusion Center

The Texas Democratic Party issued a statement criticizing the task force for a lack of diversity, saying it is “comprised of only law enforcement individuals and Republicans.”

“The first step in solving a problem is admitting we have one. In that respect, a Domestic Terrorism taskforce is a step in the right direction. However, lets be clear this was white nationalist terrorism and Governor Abbott needs to diversify the people whom he listens to. The task force completely lacks any real form of diversity, as it stands, it is comprised of only law enforcement individuals and Republicans. The same Republicans who have been fanning the flames of white supremacy and criminalizing immigration for political profit for years.
“Governor Abbott could have asked the Texas House Chair of Homeland Security and Public Safety, Texas Democrat Poncho Nevarez, for assistance. He could have also plead for expertise from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Defamation League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Human Rights Campaign, and many others whose communities combat hate every single day. 
“It’s time for Abbott and Republicans to join Texas Democrats and create real and meaningful solutions that fight back against white supremacy and gun violence because half-measures will not cut it.”

Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia