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

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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. .”

After Gendron invited people to join the Discord server, his previously private chat room messages would have been accessible to guests and anyone they might have shared access with, the spokesperson told CNN.

The New York Attorney General, meanwhile, said Wednesday she was launching an investigation into social media companies authorities say Gendron uses, including popular live-streaming platform Twitch, online forum 4Chan and Discord.

“My office is launching investigations into the social media companies the Buffalo shooter used to plan, promote and broadcast his terrorist attack,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. said Wednesday on Twitter.

James will report the findings of the investigation to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, the governor said Wednesday.

“These social media platforms need to take responsibility. They need to be more vigilant in monitoring content and they need to be held accountable for fostering engagement rather than public safety,” Hochul said.

In Discord posts – eventually shared more widely on the hate-filled 4chan online forum – the alleged gunman 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.

Among the Discord posts, which range from mid-November through May, Gendron wrote that he chose the Buffalo ZIP code because it was the one with the highest percentage of black people relatively close to his home in Conklin, New York. 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.

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“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.”

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 policeman who tried to arrest the shooter, a teacher, a taxi driver and shoppers, all aged 32 to 86.

The suspect used Twitch to livestream during the attack, the company previously confirmed, adding it was “devastated” to hear about the shooting. Twitch said the user was “indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring any account reposting this content.”
The company removed the live stream less than two minutes after the violence began, a Twitch spokesperson said.

Gendron has pleaded not guilty to a charge of 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 his posts show. The messages also reveal that the gunman planned his attack for March 15 but repeatedly delayed it.

When he carried out the shooting, 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 and posted online shortly before the shooting. 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, a police spokesperson said. New York State, Beau Duffy.

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

“We even go back several years in terms of his behavior at that time, his relationship with his family, his relationship with teachers and 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 intended to prevent anyone who shows signs of threatening themselves or others from harm. to buy a firearm, according to the state 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.

Governor Hochul on Wednesday signed an executive order requiring state police to file an extreme risk protection order under the state’s red flag law when they believe someone is a threat to them. yourself or for others.

“The current law is an option to do it, and now it will be an obligation,” the governor said at a press conference. “We will provide law enforcement with the guidance they need, the criteria to follow and we believe that together these steps are necessary to address the rising hate, white supremacy in our state.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Gendron’s plea. He pleaded not guilty.

CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Jenn Selva, Brian Todd, Laura Ly, Melanie Schuman, Jennifer Hauser, Travis Caldwell, Jason Hanna and Mark Morales contributed to this report.

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