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TX governor forms domestic terrorism task Force after El Paso shooting

Gov. Greg Abbott at a bill-signing ceremony in June. [Lola Gomez/American-Statesman]

Gov. Greg Abbott formed a task force of state political leaders, law enforcement officers and other experts Wednesday to develop ways to prevent “domestic terrorism” in the wake of the Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso that left 22 dead.

The Domestic Terrorism Task Force — which will include Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and a host of representatives from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies — will meet in Austin on Aug. 30 and every quarter, or as determined by the governor.

“Our top priority is to keep Texans safe in their communities,” Abbott said in a statement. “Part of that mission is to combat domestic terrorism and root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence in our state.”

In addition to analyzing threats to Texans and developing ways to prevent future tragedies, the task force will study ways to increase collaboration between local, state and federal agencies and provide recommendations for new state laws, the governor’s office said.

Abbott also directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to study the threat of domestic terrorism in Texas and beef up the number of DPS personnel assigned to investigate those affiliated with neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups.

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Police said the man accused of carrying out the mass shooting in El Paso confessed that he was specifically targeting Mexicans.

The task force is separate from the roundtable discussions that Abbott announced last week to discuss gun violence, the governor’s office said. Details about those roundtables, to be held in Austin and El Paso, are expected to be released in the coming days.

In addition to the roundtables, Abbott directed more than $5.5 million to El Paso for psychological first aid, behavioral health assistance and reimbursements for the costs of prosecuting the accused shooter and for other law enforcement services.

A spokesman for the governor said parts of the task force’s first meeting will be open to reporters.

Federal members of the task force include representatives from the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Attorney John Bash.

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen also will participate.

The state agencies on the task force include DPS, the Division of Emergency Management, the Military Department and the Parks & Wildlife Department.

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