Last Thursday, William Edward Atchison, 21, opened fire inside Aztec High School, where he had attended as a teen. Atchison killed two students, and then himself.
Police found his flash drive at the school, with a note that said, “If things go according to plan, today would be when I die. I go somewhere and gear up, then hold a class hostage and go apesh*t, then blow my brains out.”
“Work sucks, school sucks, life sucks. I just want out of this sh*t,” he wrote.
“It’s a shame he wasn’t on our radar,” San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen told Fox News after the shooting. “I don’t think he had anything so much as a traffic ticket.”
But The Daily Beast reports that police simply weren’t looking in the right places:
And yet online, the 21-year-old New Mexico resident lived a prolific life as a white supremacist, pro-Trump meme peddler who was most known for his obsession with school shooters. For a half-decade, Atchison spent most of his days online, repeatedly posting threats of violence and cries for help.
When users saw posts from Atchison, who went by dozens of names like “Adam Lanza” and “Future Mass Shooter” on both larger platforms like YouTube and racist communities like The Daily Stormer, they would often ask how his manifesto was going.
Despite local law enforcement’s claims that he wasn’t a known threat, and a visit from the FBI in 2016, Atchison spent most of the last half-decade glorifying school shooters on alt-right websites and posting plaintive appeals for help in fixing his life.
Atchison frequented alt-right message boards and hate groups. He volunteered as an administrator on the fringe Wikipedia-style meme site EncyclopediaDramatica.
On that site, he got into arguments with users who called out his “sh*tty facebook commentaries” praising Trump and his obsession with school shootings.
“Do you fantasize about shooting up the bullies at your school?” one user asked.
“Yah i remember him literally bragging about being *obsessed* with Columbine,” another user replied. “In 2016.”
“Have you completed your manifesto yet?” another user asked.
According to the report, Atchison also pushed his pro-Nazi views on the gaming community Steam, where he criticized the game Wolfenstein, which takes place in Germany during World War II.
“I find this game highly offensive for featuring mass murder against your own race,” he wrote. In another review of the game, he just posted, “RIP Hitler.”
In other posts, he refers to the Columbine shooting as “LOLumbine.”
Yet, in other Steam posts, he rants about “ni**ers” and the “break down of society.”
“Go to the store and buy groceries in peace? Nope, here’s a group of LGBT liberal filth in line with you. And there’s a n**ger family with 10 kids over there,” he wrote. “I used to think that this was a phase and we’d get over it, but I have now come to realize that I was born into a literal dystopia.”
Ryan Lenz, who monitors hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that Atchison’s online behavior is typical of white extremists.
“Generally, mass shooters spend a period of time prior to their action steeped in studying previous shooters. They study the aftermath of these individuals. They have a great deal of esteem or respect for others who have done the same,” Lenz told The Daily Beast. “Add in the ideology, in this case these forums—it compounds the severity and the rate of radicalization.”
“What we’ve found with these ideologies is that they repeatedly lead to violence. There’s a dual line of radicalization happening,” he explained. “To steep yourself in Daily Stormer rhetoric and the sites like it is to put yourself in the headspace of where the violence is when not if.”
“The internet has changed a lot of things. Make it much easier for an alienated, isolated kid to find communities where they feel they belong,” he added. “And it sometimes goes unchecked because of how the alt-right has presented itself: It’s just irony. It’s for the lulz.”