Buffalo shooting: Suspect’s messages could be seen online 30 minutes before mass shooting

Payton S. Gendron – suspected of killing 10 people and injuring three – had created a private chat room on the Discord communication app and invited people to view his chat logs before his attack on the Tops store Friendly Markets, a Discord spokesperson told CNN. .

“What we do know at this time is that a private, invite-only server has been created by the suspect to serve as his personal chat log,” a Discord spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. CNN. “About 30 minutes before the attack, however, a small group of people were invited and joined the server. Prior to this, our records indicate that no other people viewed the log chat log on this private server. .”

In the posts – which CNN analyzed and later posted more widely on the hate-filled online forum 4chan – the alleged shooter wrote that he had been to the supermarket three times on March 8 to examine his layout. He also wrote that he used Google’s graph feature for a location’s “popular times” to determine the store’s busiest times.

Gendron posted that he chose the Buffalo ZIP code because it was the one with the highest percentage of blacks relatively close to his home in Conklin, New York. The towns are approximately 230 miles apart.

Discord took down the server and associated content “as soon as it became aware of it after the shooting,” the spokesperson said. The company declined to say whether anyone asked to view the logs alerted moderators to the posts.

4Chan did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment regarding Gendron’s postings being shared on the platform.

The shooting targeting the supermarket in the heart of a predominantly black community is being investigated as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism, authorities said, noting that 11 of the 13 people shot were black. Among those killed were a former police officer who tried to arrest the shooter, a teacher, a taxi driver and shoppers, all aged between 32 and 86.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the victims and their families,” the Discord spokesperson said. “Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to fighting violence and extremism.”

Gendron pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, officials said, noting that additional charges are pending.

Police are working at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York on Saturday.

The key to the suspect’s social media footprint to be probed

Since the shooting, the suspect’s online trail has revealed details of his plans for the attack. And officials tracked his digital footprint to piece together his motives.

First, Gendron chose a grocery store as the crime scene over a church or elementary school because the store would draw a lot of people during its peak hours, according to his Discord posts on 4chan.

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He then took note of the number of black and white people present at each visit on March 8 and drew a map of the interior of the store, as shown in his posts. The messages also reveal that the gunman planned his attack for March 15 but repeatedly delayed it.

When he fired, he was wearing a tactical helmet and plated armor and livestreamed his movements, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.

Officials are also reviewing a racist 180-page document they say was authored by Gendron. In it, the suspect confesses to the attack and describes himself as a fascist, white supremacist and anti-Semite.

The document states that the attacker did not start planning the attack seriously until January. The author also shares his perspective on the shrinking size of the white population and the demands for ethnic and cultural replacement of white people.
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“All the evidence that we see from this manifesto, wherever this manifesto takes us from, other evidence that we already had, we can then use that and potentially develop more charges,” said the Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.

Discord, launched in 2015, isn’t as well-known as big names like Instagram, despite hitting 150 million monthly active users globally during the pandemic. Reminiscent of anonymous chat rooms, it combines the feel of early AOL chat rooms or the professional chat app Slack with the chaotic, personalized world of MySpace and is known for its video game communities.

Previous threat at school under investigation

Another warning sign may have been a threat he made in June while a student at Susquehanna Valley Central High School in Conklin, Gramaglia said.

Gendron did a murder-suicide project, which prompted police to take him in for a mental health evaluation, Gramaglia said. Gendron was released after the assessment, he said.

The appraisal was not an involuntary undertaking, so it would not have barred the alleged shooter from purchasing or possessing a firearm under federal law, the spokesperson for the agency said at the time. New York State Police, Beau Duffy.

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Now the Broome County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating that incident of threatening the school, as well as the general behavior of the suspect, he said.

“We even go back several years in terms of his behavior at that time, his relationship with his family, his relationship with the teachers and the students at the school,” prosecutor Michael Korchak told CNN.

It is “difficult to say” whether more should have been done at the time the threat was made, he added.

“So there was no direct threat to any student or teacher,” Korchak said. “People who have mental health issues can control it for a while and then one day they break and such tragic things like that happen.”

No red flag order requested

After the school’s threat, New York State Police officials did not seek a “red flag” protective order against Gendron, a NYPD spokesperson said Tuesday. State at CNN.

The Red Flag Act, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, was signed into law on August 24, 2019 and is designed to prevent anyone who shows signs of threatening themselves or others to buy a gun, according to the state’s website. .
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State police declined to explain in detail why they did not look for the red flag. “The threat was general in nature and did not target the school or anyone in particular, and did not specifically mention gunshots or firearms,” a law enforcement official told CNN.

Some clinicians who determine if someone is “likely to engage in behavior that would cause serious harm to themselves or others” are required to report it to a county health commissioner, who can report it to the The state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, which can block people from buying guns and revoking gun licenses, a former senior Office of Mental Health official told CNN this week. of State.

Federal law prohibits a person involuntarily committed to a mental health facility from purchasing a firearm, the official said. It doesn’t cover someone in a mental institution “for observation,” the official said.

Donie O’Sullivan, Jenn Selva, Brian Todd and Jennifer Hauser, Travis Caldwell, Mark Morales and Alaa Elassar contributed to this report.

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