It was in the early morning hours on Friday, Nov. 18 when 49-year-old Larry McQuilliams roamed throughout downtown Austin with AK and .22-caliber-type rifles, shooting more than 100 rounds at government buildings and a bank.
Inside his rental van was a copy of the extremist tract Vigilantes of Christendom, which preaches race war.
When he approached the Austin Police Department headquarters, Sgt. Adam Johnson shot McQuilliams once from 312 feet away—while holding onto the reigns of two horses. That’s roughly 100 yards.
It sounds hard to believe. For a handgun, that’s far. Let alone a shot with one hand. A lot of people in the shooting community didn’t believe it. “All this happen at night while holding the reins of two horses,” a commenter wrote on Austin news station KXAN’s Website. “Unbelievable.”
But it’s true, an Austin police spokesperson told War Is Boring.
The officer was stabling the horses—from the department’s mounted patrol unit—when he engaged McQuilliams, who was on foot on Eighth Street, which runs adjacent to the police headquarters.
The officer used his Smith & Wesson M&P service pistol one-handed against a gunman at a distance that even experienced shooters would find difficult. The bullet struck McQuilliams in the chest, killing him.
“A lot of keyboard warriors throwing out conspiracy theories because they can’t hit the broad side of a barn at 15 yards, much less 100+ yards,” Texas Fish & Game writer Dustin Ellermann snapped at the doubters.
There’s the story of the shooting, and then there’s McQuilliams’ story. In the days following his attack, a portrait emerged of a man struggling with life. In 1992, he robbed an armored car and spent seven years in prison. He got out in 2000.
In April 2013, he moved to Austin and worked at a car wash for several months. In his free time, he collected medieval-style weapons. Before moving to Austin, he lived in Wichita, Kansas and volunteered for a Renaissance festival.
McQuilliams wasn’t a “mass shooter,” as the common term goes—he didn’t kill anyone. But he appears to have self-radicalized like other men who’ve picked up a gun and turned it against symbolic targets.
He played at being a Renaissance-era warrior. Then he went into downtown Austin, acting it out for real.
He shot at a BB&T bank and a federal courthouse before working his way to the Mexican consulate and the police station. He attempted to set the consulate alight with improvised incendiary devices.
He had a map of Austin with 34 targets, which included churches. The FBI believed he targeted the consulate as symbolic of immigration, which he blamed for his career troubles, according to the Associated Press.
In his rental van he also had a copy of the Vigilantes of Christendom by Christian Identity writer Richard Hoskins. McQuilliams wrote a note inside referring to himself as a “priest in the fight against anti-God people.”
The 1990 Hoskins book purports to be a manifesto of the Phineas Priesthood, which is not an actual organization. Members self-identify with the “priesthood” and there’s no office or P.O. box for the group. The manifesto takes its name from the Old Testament priest Phinehas, who ran an Israelite and Midianite couple through with a spear for racially intermingling against God’s will.
Christian Identity is a broad range of ideologies that fuse Christianity with anti-Semitism and white supremacist beliefs. Most Christians view Christian Identity as a “heretical” extremist movement, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok told The Washington Post.
McQuilliams’ neighbors at a South Austin apartment complex told the Austin American-Statesman he was friendly but angst-ridden man they nicknamed “Bicycle Guy.” He had started letting his cat out “as if to prepare for life outside the apartment,” the paper reported.
But neighbors didn’t know about his ideology. McQuilliams’ trip into this violent fantasy world ended outside the police department. Fortunately, he didn’t harm anyone else. A police officer’s long-distance pistol shot stopped him.
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