Buffalo shooting: Suspect’s Discord posts about attack plans were publicly visible 30 minutes before mass shooting

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

The messages, which showed Gendron had been planning the shoot for several months, were finally made public when he invited people to join, the spokesperson told CNN.

CNN has analyzed the alleged shooter’s posts, which were first posted on Discord and later posted more widely on the hateful online forum 4Chan.

In the messages, the alleged shooter wrote that he visited the supermarket three times on March 8 to inspect the layout. He also said he used Google’s graph feature for a location’s “popular times” to determine the store’s busiest times.

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Gendron also indicated that he chose a ZIP code specific to Buffalo because it was home to the largest percentage of black people relatively close to where he lived in Conklin, New York. The two cities 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 any of the people invited to view the logs alerted the moderators of the posts.

CNN reached out to 4Chan to ask if Gendron’s posts were being shared on the platform, but got no response.

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 aged between 32 and 86.

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

Gendron was charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty, officials said, noting that additional charges are pending.

Members of the Buffalo Police Department work at the scene of a shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

The suspect’s footprint on social networks at the heart of the investigation

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 rather than 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 each time he visited on March 8 and drew a map of the store from the inside, 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 was live-streaming his movements on camera, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.

Officials are also reviewing a 180-page document they say was authored by Gendron. The suspect confesses to the attack in the document and describes himself as a fascist, a white supremacist and an 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.

“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.

Previous threat at school under investigation

Another warning sign is a threat he made last June when he attended Susquehanna Valley Central High School in Conklin, according to Gramaglia.

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

Beau Duffy, a spokesperson for the New York State Police, said at the time that it was an assessment and not an involuntary engagement – ​​so it would not have stopped the shooter alleged to purchase or possess a firearm under federal law.

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Now Broome County District Attorney Michael Korchak says his office is investigating that threatening incident at the school as well as the suspect’s general behavior.

“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,” Korchak told CNN.

He added that it is “difficult to say” whether more should have been done at the time the threat was made.

“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, which was signed into law on August 24, 2019, is designed to prevent anyone who shows signs of threatening themselves or others from buying a gun, according to the New York official. website.

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State police declined to go into specifics about why they did not look for the red flag. A law enforcement official told CNN that “the threat was general in nature and did not target the school or anyone in particular, and did not specifically mention gunshots or guns.” .

A former senior official with the state’s Office of Mental Health told CNN earlier this week that some clinicians who determine whether someone is “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to themselves or others” are required to report it to a county health commissioner. , who can report this to the state’s Criminal Justice Services Division, which can stop people from buying guns and revoke gun licenses.

The official said federal law prohibits a person involuntarily committed to a mental health facility from purchasing a firearm. 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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