Gov. Greg Abbott convened the first session of his Domestic Terrorism Task Force on Friday, saying the effort was inspired by the "hate-filled mass terroristic" shooting in El Paso, the latest in a string of worrisome attacks.
Abbott recalled the Austin bomber who killed two and injured three in a series of attacks over 19 days in 2018, and a shooter who killed five Dallas police officers in an ambush in 2016, concluding: "The list, unfortunately, is too long for me to recount."
"We need to come to grips with the fact that there has been an increasing number and frequency of mass shootings as well as terroristic attacks," Abbott said at the start of the meeting in the Capitol.
The task force's first job is to develop strategies to identify home-grown terror threats, then recommend solutions, the governor said.
After Abbott' opening remarks, the meeting continued behind closed doors.
It was the third meeting in the past eight days for Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen since a gunman told police that he drove 10 hours to El Paso to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.
The first two gatherings, last week in the Capitol and Thursday in El Paso, included experts, advocates, politicians and victims who discussed ways to respond to the shooting that left 22 dead.
Abbott said work has begun developing a plan for his office and state agencies to follow, as well as suggested action by the Legislature.
The terrorism task force, which will meet at least quarterly, has a somewhat different focus: "To make sure we do everything we can to undermine and eradicate domestic terrorism here in Texas," Abbott said.
Task force members include representatives of the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and the U.S. attorney's office. El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen and Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra also are members.
State agencies represented in the meeting included the Department of Public Safety, Texas Military Department, the Division of Emergency Management and the Parks and Wildlife Department.
Democrats criticized the task force for its heavy reliance on members of law enforcement and Republican officials — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also is a member — and its lack of experts on terrorism inspired by white supremacy.
The task force's makeup makes Abbott's words from Thursday, when he acknowledged that "mistakes were made" on a fundraising appeal that asked Texans to take action against a dangerous rise of illegal immigration, ring hollow, said Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.
"If Abbott truly acknowledges the mistakes he’s made, he would immediately appoint a more diverse set of experts to this task force. He didn’t," Garcia said.
Story will be updated after the task force meeting concludes.