15 People Joined a Private Chat With Buffalo Shooting Suspect

The role of social media in the Buffalo, New York shooting 3:30

(WABNEWS) — At least 15 people joined alleged Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron’s private account on Discord, a messaging app, shortly before the shooting at the Tops Friendly Markets store, a person with knowledge told WABNEWS. knowledge of internal Discord investigation.

A Discord spokesperson previously confirmed that Gendron had sent an invitation to a small group of people to view his chat logs about 30 minutes before the shooting began.

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“The suspect created a private, invite-only server to serve as his personal diary chat log,” a Discord spokesperson told WABNEWS on Tuesday. “Approximately 30 minutes before the attack, however, a small group of people were invited and joined the server. Prior to that, our records indicate that no other person viewed the diary chat log on this private server.”

After the suspected attacker invited people to join the server, their messages would have been accessible to invitees, as well as anyone they might have shared access with, the spokesperson said. Discord removed the server and related content “as soon as” it became aware of it following the shooting, the spokesperson said.

Gendron, an 18-year-old white man, was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday, according to an affidavit from Erie County Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush.

The Erie County Grand Jury voted to indict defendant Payton Gendron, “with respect to the felony complaint filed on or about May 14, 2022,” the affidavit says. The grand jury investigation is not yet complete, Erie County Prosecutor John Flynn said in a statement.

Gendron, of Conklin, New York, previously pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder, with other charges expected. The first-degree murder charge encompasses two or more murders in Buffalo, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office told WABNEWS.

The indictment was announced Thursday during a brief court appearance for Gendron, who has been ordered held without bail until further action is taken by a grand jury. Gendron was dressed in an orange uniform and white face mask and was handcuffed and shackled as he entered the room flanked by officers.

His next court appearance is scheduled for June 9. Defense attorney Brian Parker had no comment.

As Gendron was led away from his court appearance, someone in the courtroom yelled, “Payton, you coward!”

Payton Gendron, the suspect in the Buffalo shooting, appeared in court Thursday.

Gendron is accused of driving nearly 200 miles to kill 10 people and wound three others in a shooting that targeted a Tops supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood. Authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime and a racially motivated act of violent extremism. Of the 13 victims, 11 were black.

The FBI has completed the crime scene investigation at the supermarket and has returned the building to its owners, authorities said Thursday. Tops President and COO John Persons vowed to reopen the supermarket as soon as possible, noting its importance in the area’s “food desert” where they don’t have easy access to other grocery options.

“We want to make sure it’s done right and that we open it respectfully,” Persons said. “We’re going to balance all of those priorities.”

Authorities investigate red flag laws and social media

While the suspect is behind bars, authorities in New York have called for further investigation into how he was able to obtain weapons and how he communicated his plans online.

In June, Gendron showed a warning sign of potential violence when he completed a school project on murder-suicide cases while a student at Susquehanna Valley Central High School in Conklin, authorities said.

Police were called to the school, and he was taken in for a mental health evaluation and was later released. At the time, police did not request a “red flag” protective order against Gendron.

The red flag law, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order law, is designed to prevent anyone who shows signs of being a threat to themselves or others from acquiring a firearm, according to the website. from New York.

But since the assessment was not given as part of an involuntary commitment, it did not prevent the alleged shooter from acquiring or coming into possession of a firearm under federal law, New York State Police spokesman Beau Duffy said. .

Since the shooting, Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed a package of gun laws, as well as other changes to law enforcement protocol when a person shows they may be harmful to themselves or others. On Wednesday, Hochul said she would sign an executive order requiring state police to file an “extreme risk protection order” under the red flag law when they believe an individual is a threat to themselves or others.

The gun law package would aim to close loopholes around specific types of guns that fall outside current regulations, including high-powered weapons that can be concealed and those that can be modified to hold high-capacity magazines. , said.

The proposed legislation would remedy “one of those huge loopholes you can drive a truck through,” he said.

Additionally, New York Attorney General Letitia James started an investigation about the social media platforms allegedly used by the suspect, including Discord.

A Discord spokesperson said the company will cooperate with the state attorney general’s investigation.

In Gendron’s online Discord posts and in a 180-page document that investigators believe he wrote, he described himself as a white supremacist, fascist and anti-Semite. He reportedly wrote that he was targeting the Buffalo supermarket because it had the highest concentration of blacks in upstate New York and said he subscribed to the “replacement theory,” a conspiracy theory that claims an elite group is trying to replace whites with non-white immigrants.

The suspect’s posts on social media they have become a central element of the investigation because they offer details about how he planned his attack and his motivations.

In messages shared first on Discord, and then more widely on the hate-filled online forum 4Chan, Gendron said he visited the grocery store several times on March 8 to find out how it was set up. The suspect noted the number of black and white people who shopped during his visits and drew a map of the interior of the store, according to messages from him.

The suspect also livestreamed the shooting on the Twitch website. The company said it took down the video within minutes, but social media companies scrambled to contain its spread.

James’ investigation, revealed Wednesday by his office, focuses on Twitch, Discord, and the 4chan and 8chan (now known as 8kun) websites. Other companies not yet identified may also be involved in the investigation, James said.

James will inform Hochul of the results of the investigation.

“These social platforms need to take responsibility. They need to be more vigilant in monitoring content and accountable for favoring engagement over public safety,” the governor said.

In a letter to James, Hochul called for the investigation to determine “whether specific companies bear civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating, or providing a platform to plan and promote violence.”

WABNEWS’s Clare Duffy, Kimberly Berryman, Aya Elamroussi, Shimon Prokupecz, Liam Reilly and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

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