The Buffalo shooter let some people see shots just before the attack
Shortly before opening fire, white shooter accused of killing 10 black people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, allowed a small group of people to see his detailed plans for the attack, which he had chronicled for months in a private online journal.
Discord, the chat platform where 18-year-old Payton Gendron kept the diary, confirmed on Wednesday that an invitation to access his private writings was sent to the group about half an hour before Saturday’s attack at Tops Friendly Market , which he streamed live on another online service. Some of them accepted.
Gendron’s diary and his racist and anti-Semitic entries from last November included step-by-step descriptions of his plans for the assault, a detailed account of a reconnaissance trip he made to Buffalo in March, and maps of the store. which he drew by hand.
“What we 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 written statement. “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 one else has seen the log chat log on this private server.
It was unclear whether any of the people who had accessed Gendron’s diary or viewed his live stream had done anything to alert authorities or attempt to stop the attack. Discord said it deleted Gendron’s diary as soon as the platform became aware of it, in accordance with the company’s policies against violent extremism.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Monday that investigators are working to obtain, verify and review Gendron’s online postings.
Copies of his Discord log — essentially a transcript of his posts to his private chat log — briefly surfaced elsewhere online after the shooting, along with a 180-page screed attributed to him. Both were imbued with white supremacist beliefs echoing an unsubstantiated extremist conspiracy theory about a plot to diminish white influence.
President Joe Biden, visiting Buffalo on Tuesday, repudiated those beliefs, saying, “Now is the time for people of all races, from all walks of life, to speak out in the majority…and reject white supremacy.”
Gendron was arraigned over the weekend for murder; a plea of not guilty has been entered on his behalf and he remains imprisoned on suicide watch. He is scheduled to appear again Thursday in Buffalo.
Tech companies like Discord and Twitch, which authorities say Gendron used to livestream the supermarket attack, are under scrutiny for their roles as conduits for hate speech.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday authorized State Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the social media platforms used by Gendron to determine whether they have “civil or criminal liability for their role in the promoting, facilitating or providing a platform to plan and promote violence”.
Discord said it plans to cooperate with James’ investigation and continues to assist law enforcement with the ongoing shooting investigation.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the victims and their families,” the company said. “Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to fighting violence and extremism.”
Messages seeking comment have been left for Twitch. Twitch CEO Emmett Shear told the Harvard Business Review in an interview earlier Wednesday that the Amazon-owned platform will continue to “invest heavily to keep everyone on Twitch safe.”
“I think it’s an example of one of those places where we’ve done a lot of work, but obviously there’s still work to be done,” Shear said.
Attempts to reach representatives from two other tech platforms James is investigating, 8kun and 4chan, have failed. Gendron wrote in his diary that these signs were where he started reading about the racist ideologies that set him on a path to killing non-whites and non-Christians.
When reached for comment, Ron Watkins, the longtime administrator of 8kun and its predecessor, 8chan, said he resigned from the organization last year and had ” no idea what’s going on with that.”
Gendron wrote in his Discord log that he started reading 4chan a few months after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 and was heavily influenced by Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people in a shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019. Gendron wrote that he originally planned his attack for March 15, the third anniversary of Tarrant’s attack.
Copies of Gendron’s diary articles were shared with The Associated Press by Marc-Andre Argentino, a research fellow at the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence. He said it was possible but unlikely that the diary could have been edited by anyone other than the author.
Gendron, in the newspaper, said he specifically targeted a store with a predominantly black clientele, researching locations in Rochester, Syracuse and Long Island before moving to Buffalo. Prosecutors say he showed up on Saturday wearing a body armor and armed with an AR-15-style rifle as a helmet-mounted camera was broadcast on the internet.
Trouble with his gun and then a bout with COVID-19 – which he theorized he contracted from a fast food chicken sandwich poisoned by government agents – kept him from attacking earlier, he wrote in the newspaper.
Gendron wrote that he started thinking about “a personal attack on substitutes” a few weeks before an episode in a high school class about a year ago. This episode led to him being taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
A few weeks before the attack, Gendron wrote that neither his parents nor his brothers were aware of his plans, but that he feared that they did.
Sisak reported from New York. Associated Press reporters Haleluya Hadero in New York, Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington, DC, and Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York, contributed to this report.
Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak