By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The racist attack targeting a Buffalo grocery store in a predominantly African American neighborhood has many people frightened and wondering who could be next.

“There is still anger because individuals are still looking for answers as to how many more lives have to be taken before something is done,” Reverend Corey Gibson of Buffalo’s Calvary Baptist Church said.

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Despite promises, Colin Clarke of The Soufan Center doubts leaders will act.

“We should demand more of our politicians frankly,” he told WIZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “I have zero faith that this will move the needle even one degree. Thoughts and prayers from the usual suspects, rinse and repeat and we’ll just sit and wait for the next tragedy.”

Clarke lived just blocks away from the Pittsburgh synagogue where 11 people were killed in an anti-Semitic attack in 2018. He has done extensive research into domestic terrorism.

“Most people who study this have been expecting an attack like this for some time,” Clarke said. “We’ve been warning about it. People have been inside for two-plus years during the pandemic spending an inordinate amount of time online, and many have gone to dark places and rabbit holes like this 18-year-old individual in the Buffalo attack.”

In Maryland, the FBI reported 40 hate crimes in 2020, the last year data is available: 27 involving race, five involving religion, seven involving sexual orientation and one involving gender identity.

Of Maryland’s 440 hate crimes over the past decade, 170 were against African Americans.

Last May, a suspect attacked two Asian-American women inside a West Baltimore corner store, hitting them with a cinder block.

He told police, “They need to go back to their country.”

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In 2020, federal agents foiled a terror plot by members of a radical group called “The Base” who underwent tactical training, made their own weapons and stockpiled ammunition to start a race war before being arrested outside of Baltimore.

Also in 2020, a man was charged after threatening a Baltimore County synagogue.

Last year, the FBI launched a hate crimes awareness campaign in Maryland.

Governor Larry Hogan announced improvements to report hate and bias incidents including a 211 hotline.

Clarke says attacks like the one in Buffalo can happen anywhere and he fears they will become more prevalent as radical, racist theories become more mainstream and “no longer reside on the fringes” of the internet. 

“It can and it does in the United States,” Clarke said. “We’ve normalized it. We’ve become callous to it.”

He also said warning signs about the suspect in Buffalo were missed. 

“The kind of mixed signals or red flag that should’ve been identified,” he said. “I mean, this is someone who talked about school shootings in high school and had been flagged for a mental health evaluation, yet he still possesses multiple firearms. What’s wrong with us as a country?” 

Clarke noted that the shooter spent time radicalizing on 4Chan because he was “bored.”

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“So how many other dozens or hundreds of people are out there in our country who have done similar who are suffering from anxiety or some kind of mental health issue and have access to high-powered weaponry including automatic rifles?” Clarke asked.