Accused Colorado Springs shooter praised by online extremists calling for copycat attacks: DHS

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(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — The suspect accused of opening fire inside an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been praised by online extremists who have called for copycat attacks, according to a Department of Homeland Security bulletin made public Wednesday.

“Following the late November shooting at an LGBTQI+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado — which remains under investigation — we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker, the latest National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin (NTAS), dated Nov. 30 says. “Similarly, some domestic violent extremists in the United States praised an October 2022 shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Slovakia and encouraged additional violence. The attacker in Slovakia posted a manifesto online espousing white supremacist beliefs and his admiration for prior attackers, including some within the United States.”

The NTAS bulletin, brought back by the current Homeland Security secretary, is the seventh after the current one expired on Wednesday.

“Threat actors have recently mobilized to violence, citing factors such as reactions to current events and adherence to violent extremist ideologies. In the coming months, threat actors could exploit several upcoming events to justify or commit acts of violence, including certifications related to the midterm elections, the holiday season and associated large gatherings, the marking of two years since the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and potential sociopolitical developments connected to ideological beliefs or personal hostility,” the bulletin said. “Targets of potential violence include public gatherings, faith-based institutions, the LGBTQI+ community, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents.”

Senior DHS officials reiterated on a conference call with reporters the threat environment in the United States remains “heightened.”

The bulletin also mentions threats to the Jewish community, and perceptions of government overreach. The official added the Jewish community “seems particularly targeted” in recent days.

“Some domestic violent extremists have express grievances based on perceptions that the government is overstepping its Constitutional authorities or failing to perform its duties,” the bulletin says. “Historically, issues related to immigration and abortion have been cited by prior attackers as inspiration for violence. Potential changes in border security enforcement policy, an increase in noncitizens attempting to enter the U.S., or other immigration-related developments may heighten these calls for violence.”

John Cohen, the former acting head of intelligence at DHS said the bulletin serves as a reminder of the threats that the country faces.

“This most recent DHS NTAS reflects dangerous nature of the current threat environment which includes mass casualty attacks by lone offenders motivated by a combination of ideological beliefs and personal grievance cultivated through the consumption of online content,” Cohen, now an ABC News contributor said. “This bulletin is important in that it informs the public regarding the threat facing the United States. That said – while informing the public is critical, I remain concerned that enough isn’t being done to adjust our investigative and threat mitigation efforts to actually prevent the attacks that continue to impact far too many communities and families across America.”

Officials on the call cited a man who appeared at Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house looking for him, and well as the recent attack against the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, in which the suspect allegedly was looking for Pelosi herself.

Threats against the midterm elections were “isolated” according to the bulletin.

“While violence surrounding the November midterm elections was isolated, we remain vigilant that heightened political tensions in the country could contribute to individuals mobilizing to violence based on personalized grievances,” the bulletin says. “Over the past few months we observed general calls for violence targeting elected officials, candidates, and ballot drop box locations.”

Once speech crosses the line, the department becomes alerted to it, senior officials on the call said.

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