Accused Gunman Mocked Police Online, Visited Buffalo, NY Before Massacre

The white gunman accused of massacring 10 black people in a racist rampage at a Buffalo, New York supermarket taunted police online last month and visited the city in March, investigators said Monday.

Payton Gendron, 18, began posting threads on the social media platform Discord about bulletproof vests and guns, and last month made provocative comments about federal law enforcement, said Buffalo FBI Agent in Charge Stephen Belongia, in a call between law enforcement officials. and private sector and university partners. The Associated Press obtained a recording of the call.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia revealed that Gendron, who lives about 200 miles away in Conklin, New York, had been in Buffalo two months ago. Gramaglia declined to say more about that trip.

The commissioner said numerous investigators are working to obtain and review Gendron’s online posts.

“There are many social networks that are being analyzed, or that are being verified, captured,” Gramaglia said. “Some of that requires court orders that must be followed across various social media platforms.”

Angela Crawley, the daughter of Ruth Whitfield, one of the victims, speaks during a news conference in Buffalo on Monday. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

Planned to continue the rampage

The police commissioner also told CNN that Gendron planned to continue killing had he escaped the scene and even spoke of shooting another store.

“He was going to get in his car and continue driving down Jefferson Avenue and continue doing the same thing,” the commissioner said.

The commissioner’s account was similar to parts of a 180-page racist document, allegedly written by Gendron, that said the assault was intended to terrorize all non-white and non-Christian people into leaving the country. Federal authorities were working to confirm the authenticity of the document.

According to online materials shared with The Associated Press by Marc-Andre Argentino, a researcher at the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, the diary’s author wrote in November about the staging of an event Live. he broadcast attacks on black people, practiced shooting from his car and traveled hours from his home in March to explore the store.

SEE | Remembering friends who were killed:

Buffalo grocery store clerk remembers friends killed in shooting

Tony Marshall, a retired police officer who has worked as a driver at Tops Friendly Markets for 13 years, pays tribute to his friends and colleagues killed in Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.

The writer posted hand-drawn maps of the grocery store, along with accounts of the number of black people he counted there, and recounted how a black security guard at the grocery store confronted him that day to ask what he was doing.

A black security guard was among those killed in Saturday’s shooting.

Apparently, a transcript of the diary entries was publicly released sometime before the attack. It was not clear if any entry was widely visible before then. Experts said it was possible but unlikely that the diary could have been altered by someone other than the author.

Indicted on murder charge

Gendron wielded an AR-15-style rifle, wore a bulletproof vest and used a helmet camera to livestream the bloodbath Saturday, authorities said. He turned himself in inside the supermarket and was booked on a murder charge over the weekend. He pleaded not guilty and was jailed on suicide watch.

Federal prosecutors said they are considering federal hate crime charges in the case.

SEE | Why the gunman targeted that supermarket:

How the Buffalo supermarket served as a ‘lifeline’ in the community

Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen tells CBC News why people in his neighborhood fought to get the supermarket where 10 black people were killed on Saturday, and how it served as a lifeline and center for so many in the community.

Former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr., who lost his 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, in the shooting, asked how the country could allow its history of racist killings to repeat itself.

“We’re not just hurt. We’re angry. We’re angry. This shouldn’t have happened. We do our best to be good citizens, to be good people. We believe in God. We trust in Him. We treat people decently, and we love even our enemies,” Whitfield said at a news conference with civil rights attorney Ben Crump and others.

“And you expect us to keep doing this over and over and over, one more time, forgive and forget,” he continued. “While the people we elect and trust in office in this country go to great lengths not to protect us, to not consider us equals.”

A man brings flowers to the scene of the shooting Monday. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

Whitfield’s mother was killed after visiting her husband daily in a nursing home.

“How do we tell him it’s gone? Let alone that it’s gone to a white supremacist? A terrorist? An evil person who is allowed to live among us?” Whitfield said.

SEE | Family of Buffalo shooting victim overwhelmed with grief:

Family of Buffalo shooting victim overwhelmed with grief

The family of Ruth Whitfield, one of the 10 people killed in the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, held back tears and anger as they paid tribute to her life on Monday, pleading for change.

The victims also included a man buying a cake for his grandson; a church deacon who helps people get home with his purchases; and a supermarket security guard.

“This was an act of domestic terrorism,” Crump told reporters. “And we have to define it as such. We can’t sugarcoat it. We can’t try to explain it away, talking about mental illness. No.”

SEE | ‘An act of domestic terrorism’:

Buffalo shooting is ‘an act of domestic terrorism,’ says attorney representing victim

Attorney Ben Crump says the mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket that left 10 Black people dead was an act of racism and bigotry that should be treated as an act of domestic terrorism.

The bloodshed in Buffalo was the deadliest in a wave of weekend shootings, including at a California church and a Texas flea market.

Messages were left with Gendron’s attorneys on Monday. No one answered the door of his family’s house in the morning and relatives did not respond to messages.

Law enforcement officials said Sunday that New York State Police officers had been called to Gendron’s high school last June over a report that the then-17-year-old had made threatening statements. The threat was “general” in nature and not related to race, Gramaglia said.

Gendron had threatened to carry out a shooting at Susquehanna Valley High in Conklin near graduation, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Gramaglia said Gendron had no further contact with police after a mental health evaluation that landed him in a hospital for a day and a half.

It was unclear whether officials could have invoked New York’s “red flag” regulation, which allows law enforcement, school officials and families to petition a court to order the seizure of weapons from people deemed dangerous. Authorities did not say when Gendron acquired the weapons he had during the deadly attack.

Federal law prohibits people from owning guns if a judge has determined they have a “mental defect” or have been forced into a mental institution. An assessment alone would not trigger a ban.

FBI members search for evidence at Tops supermarket on Monday. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The long list of mass shootings in the US that involved missed opportunities to intervene includes the 2018 massacre of 17 students at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where law enforcement officers received numerous complaints about the gunman’s threatening statements and the killing of more than two dozen people at a Texas church in 2017 by a former Air Force member who was able to buy a gun despite a history of violence.

At the White House, US President Joe Biden, who planned a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, paid tribute to one of the victims, retired police officer and security guard Aaron Salter. Salter repeatedly fired at the attacker, hitting his body armor at least once before he was shot dead. Biden said Salter “gave his life trying to save others.”

Authorities said that in addition to the 10 blacks killed, three people were injured: one black, two whites.

Zeneta Everhart said her son, supermarket clerk Zaire Goodman, was helping a shopper outside when he saw a man get out of a car in military gear and point a gun at him. A bullet then struck Goodman in the neck.

“Mom! Mom, come here now, come here now! I got shot!” she told her mother on the phone. Goodman, 20, left the hospital and was doing well Monday, his mother said.

Gendron researched the demographics of the neighborhood and conducted reconnaissance before the attack, investigators said. Mayor Byron Brown said the gunman “came here for the express purpose of taking as many black lives as possible.”

Most of the victims were elderly, a distinction that historically carries weight in black communities. The same was true of several of the nine black people killed in 2015 in a racist attack on a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Buffalo gunman livestreamed the attack on Twitch, prompting scrutiny of how quickly social platforms react to violent videos.

Parts of the video circulating online show the gunman killing multiple shoppers in less than a minute. At one point, he points his gun at a white person hiding behind a checkout counter, but says, “I’m sorry!” and he doesn’t shoot. Screenshots purporting to be from the broadcast appear to show an anti-black racial slur scrawled on his rifle.

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