Was Micah Johnson radicalized prior to the Dallas police shootings last Thursday? As the investigation continues into all of the motivating factors that led a 25-year-old U.S. military veteran to ambush white police officers, it is learned that he “liked” a Facebook page depicting hate for white law enforcement.
CNN reports that a strong message urging blacks to take action was posted on Facebook in a group known as the African-American Defense League. The site was created by Mauricelm-Lei Millere, who wrote the scathing post.
It read, “The Pig has shot and killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana!: You and I know what we must do and I don’t mean marching, making a lot of noise, or attending conventions. We must ‘Rally The Troops!’ It is time to visit Louisiana and hold a barbeque. The highlight of our occasion will be to sprinkle Pigs Blood!”
The dark message was posted at 9:47 p.m. on Wednesday. Micah began his rampage the next night in Dallas, where he killed five white police officers and injured seven other victims. He was killed when police sent in a remote-controlled robot with a bomb that was detonated when talks broke down.
— CNN (@CNN) July 11, 2016
Micah Johnson was reacting to news that two blacks had been killed by white policemen — Philando Castile in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after he was pulled over for a broken taillight, and Alton Sterling while being subdued by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
According to the report, investigators have discovered that Johnson’s online history reveals that he followed “dozens of sites that focused on injustices committed on the black community.” He was a supporter of websites related to Black Lives Matter and the New Black Panthers. There were also links to Nation of Islam and the Black Riders Liberation Party, two groups that are considered hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Washington Post reports that the People’s New Black Panthers founder, Babu Omowale, said Johnson attended several of its meetings, but never showed up at armed gatherings.
It is noted in the CNN report that a similar pattern was seen in the Dallas shooter being radicalized as terrorists commonly are. Johnson may have been searching for his own identity and coping with the hate and anger he was viewing on the internet.
A friend of Johnson’s said he was “obsessed” with the turmoil of blacks and would watch the infamous Rodney King police beating video. The deceased shooter’s friend, who did not want to be identified, added that Johnson was “an expert on the history of the Martin Luther King assassination. And he studied Malcolm X.”
Johnson’s friend said he had problems managing his temper flare-ups. He described him as a “good black man with a little bit of an anger problem.”
An expert on extremism from George Washington University, J.M. Berger, tells CNN that there’s a “concern that black nationalist hate groups are employing the same tactics, and possibly inciting the same lone wolf style of violence” as ISIS and what white supremacist groups carried out 30 or 40 years ago. The groups use propaganda to influence “lone wolf attacks where someone will carry out an attack in the name of the ideology they believe in but not have any connection to the organization that is promoting the ideology.”
Berger adds that if someone absorbs content that pushes ill intentions and they are prone toward violence, “they may fixate on that content as a reason to take action.”
The African-American Defense League posted another hateful message that was deleted, reading, “calling on the gangs across the nation! Attack everything in blue…”
Tom Fuentes, a former associate director with the FBI, told CNN that the hateful rhetoric written in these types of messages on sites affiliated with the take down of a particular group of people should be treated in the same way that the federal government investigates ISIS.
— pete602 (@petefrt) July 8, 2016
“It’s no different than the ISIS propaganda that goes out,” Fuentes said. “And the question for law enforcement is where do you draw the line between free speech and something else? If a message is espousing someone to take action, even if they inspire one guy to strike out, isn’t that enough?”
The FBI collaborates with the Southern Poverty Law Center to monitor the activities of hate groups online. The right to free speech blurs the lines of how it can be tracked because the groups are mostly run by U.S. citizens. There is a “fine line” that Fuentes says some of the groups are “walking right up to.”
A Facebook group dedicated to the teachings of Elijah Mohammed honored Micah Johnson as a martyr on its page after the shootings, a tribute measure also found with ISIS posts.
The Washington Post highlights that Micah Johnson’s association with black nationalism and killings have shocked friends, colleagues from the Army, and those who knew him.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]