Chief on Austin gunman: ‘Hate was in his heart’

Larry McWilliams

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Three days after the attack on four different downtown buildings, investigators released details which suggest Steve McQuilliams planned a much larger assault on downtown which may have been politically and religiously motivated.

“Hate was in his heart,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. “He is a homegrown American terrorist trying to terrorize our people.”

Acevedo’s comments came after he and the Federal Bureau of Investigations Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs released new information about the incident which left 103 defects inside and outside the Austin Police Headquarters and similar destruction at the Federal Courthouse, Mexican Consulate building, and a downtown area bank.

Through the course of interviewing those who had contact with the shooter, the FBI said McQuilliams made cursory comments expressing frustration with his inability to land a job and he felt immigrants were given opportunities not afforded to him.

Acevedo said the book “Vigilantes of Christendom” was also found in the shooter’s van along with a note and Bible verses indicating he planned on fighting “anti-God people.” Statements made in interviews also tied him to ultra-conservative groups with anti-Semitic, anti-homosexual, and anti-bi-racial families according to Acevedo.

“Terrorists come in all sorts of colors, ethnicities, and religions,” said Acevedo. “By no means can you call him anything other than an extremist.”

The police chief said the white van Mcquilliams used during the shooting spree was rented from Avis on West 35th Street in Central Austin. Owner Shelia Keefer was there when he came in on the Wednesday before the shooting to pick it up.

Keefer said Mcquilliams did seem a little odd, but nothing to be concerned about. He had a valid Kansas driver’s license and was supposed to return the van on Friday at noon. Shelia got a call from Austin police Friday morning asking if Mcquilliams rented the van from their shop. At that point one of her employee had already seen the vehicle on the news.

Larger attack

The gunman who attacked the federal courthouse, the Mexican consulate and the Austin Police Department headquarters was killed by a single shot taken from 312 feet away by mounted patrol Sgt. Adam Johnson who also held the reins of two horses.

Sgt. Johnson told Chief Art Acevedo that he credits “divine intervention” and that the other officers in the mounted patrol unit who were advancing on the shooter should get the majority of the credit.

Acevedo described Larry Steve McQuilliams as being heavily armed with two “long rifle guns” including a .22 caliber and an AK-47-style weapon. In the rental van he used during the attacks, police found a book titled “Vigilantes of Christendom” as well as multiple propane cans fashioned as Improvised Explosive Devices. Also inside the van, officers found a map with 34 targets, including two downtown churches.

When officers rushed in to take McQuilliams into custody, they discovered he was wearing a tactical vest and a backpack hydration unit, something Acevedo says is an indication he was planning to continue the assault.

Upon further investigation they also discovered he had “Let me Die” written on his chest. When officers went into McQuilliams’ apartment, they found clothes laid out on his bed indicating they were the ones he was to wear to his funeral.

Previous history

McQuilliams was arrested by Austin Police in 1992 following an armed robbery of an armored car at First State Bank. He was later convicted on federal charges of an armed robbery that landed him in federal prison until June 16th, 2000.

He moved to Austin in April of 2013. At one point, he had a job at a car wash on Lamar for about four months. He left the job sometime around May. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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