Hidalgo County sheriff joins governor’s new Domestic Terrorism Task Force

Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra has been selected as one of 18 members to join a new Domestic Terrorism Task Force, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office announced in a news release Wednesday.

“I am honored to be a part of such an esteemed group of individuals with the common goal of working together to prevent and combat domestic terrorism,” Guerra said in a statement. “Extremism and hate crimes have no place in Texas, and together, we will work to keep this great state, and our respective communities, safe.”

Created in the wake of the shooting massacre at an El Paso area Walmart on Aug. 3, which claimed the lives of 22 people, the task force was formed by Abbott and will meet quarterly to expand efforts combating domestic terrorism across local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in Texas.

The first gathering, a roundtable discussion, is scheduled Friday, Aug. 30.

“The group of experts will analyze and provide advice on strategies to maximize law enforcement’s ability to protect against acts of domestic terrorism,” the news release read. “… Additionally, the Governor today directed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to take immediate action to combat any form of domestic terrorism in Texas… “

Those actions, according to the governor’s office, include the following:

  • Conducting a state intelligence assessment on the domestic terrorism threat in Texas;
  • Establishing a domestic terrorism section within the Texas Fusion Center to proactively seek, assess and monitor domestic terrorism and other mass casualty threats;
  • Coordinating with the designated regional fusion centers in Texas to increase the detection and monitoring of domestic terrorism and other mass casualty threats;
  • Establishing domestic terrorism teams comprised of DPS Special Agents to provide immediate direct support to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces, and increase the number of special agents assigned to the JTTFs to conduct domestic counterterrorism investigations;
  • And increasing the number of DPS special agents and analysts in the Texas Anti-Gang Centers conducting investigations on criminal gangs affiliated with Neo Nazi and white nationalist groups and networks espousing terrorist attacks.

“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. This task force brings together leaders with the expertise Texas needs to develop effective strategies and combat domestic terrorism.

“Texas is stronger when we come together in pursuit of a shared goal, and today’s actions are vital steps in our ongoing fight against extremism and violence. We stand united against those who wish to bring harm to our state, and together we will build a safer future for every Texan.”

This also comes at a time in which tensions have heightened in local communities, the Rio Grande Valley not being the exception. Locally, arrests have been made in Weslaco and Harlingen the week following the El Paso shooting for shooting threats made at Walmarts in those Valley communities.

And, at a Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy active shooter training seminar for civilians, people acknowledged that the recent mass shooting activity brought them to the event Monday in hopes of being better prepared if found in such critical circumstances.

Objectives in place for the governor’s task force include:

“Analyzing current and emerging threats in Texas, and developing strategies that government entities can take to prevent and respond to such threats. Studying ways to increase interagency cooperation and collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies. Developing model tools, policies, and protocols to assist in fighting domestic terrorism. Providing advice and recommendations regarding state homeland security strategic planning, and relevant legislative recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.”

In addition to Guerra and Abbott, the task force is composed of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, state House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, DPS Colonel Steve McCraw, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief W. Nim Kidd, Texas Military Department Major General Tracy Norris, Texas Department of Information Resources Executive Director Amanda Crawford, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith, United States Attorney John Bash of the Western District of Texas, Jeff Murray of the Department of Homeland Security, Lubbock County District Attorney K. Sunshine Stanek, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, Captain Anthony Carter of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office and North Texas Fusion Center, and members of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Secret Service and FBI.

“Serving in this capacity will not only help to provide insight to the task force by sharing our expertise and experience as a border community, but also help to bring back and implement valuable best practices, shared knowledge, and effective models that will help us keep Hidalgo County safe from these types of threats,” Guerra said in the statement.