Shortly before he opened fire, the white gunman was 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 written for months in a private online diary.
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 on Tops Friendly Market. as he livestreamed on another online service. Some of them accepted.
Gendron’s diary and its racist, anti-Semitic posts dated November last year included step-by-step descriptions of his assault plans, a detailed account of a reconnaissance trip he made to Buffalo in March, and maps of the store he drew by hand. .
“What we do know at this time is that an invite-only private server was set up by the suspect to serve as a personal diary chatlog,” a Discord spokesman said in a written statement. “About 30 minutes before the attack, however, a small group of people were invited to and joined the server. Before that, our records show that no other people saw the diary chat log on this private server.”
It was not clear if any of the people who gained access to Gendron’s diary or watched his livestream did anything to alert authorities or try to stop the attack. Discord said it removed Gendron’s diary as soon as the platform became aware of it, in line with the company’s policies against violent extremism.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Monday that investigators were working to obtain, verify and review Gendron’s online records.
Copies of his Discord diary – essentially a transcript of his post to his private chat log – appeared briefly elsewhere online after the shooting, along with a 180-page scres attributed to him. Both were filled with white beliefs that repeated a baseless extremist conspiracy theory about a plot to diminish the influence of white people.
President Joe Biden, who visited Buffalo on Tuesday, rejected such beliefs, saying, “Now is the time for people of all races, from any background, to speak out as a majority … and reject white supremacy.”
Gendron was indicted over the weekend on a charge of murder; an innocent statement was filed on his behalf and he remains incarcerated under a suicide guard. He is scheduled to appear in court in Buffalo again on Thursday.
Technology companies like Discord and Twitch, which authorities say Gendron used to livestream the supermarket attack, are under scrutiny for their role as vectors of hate speech.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday authorized State Attorney General Letitia James to investigate social media platforms used by Gendron to determine whether they have “civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating or providing a platform for planning.” and promote violence. “
Discord said it planned to cooperate with James’ investigation and continue to assist law enforcement in the ongoing investigation into the shooting.
“Our deepest sympathy is with 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 were left on 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 in ensuring the safety of everyone on Twitch.”
“I think this is an example of one of those places where we’ve done a lot of work, but there’s obviously still work to be done,” Shear said.
Attempts to reach representatives of two other technology platforms that James is investigating, 8kun and 4chan, were unsuccessful. Gendron wrote in his diary that these boards were where he began reading up on the racist ideologies that set him on the path to killing non-white, non-Christian people.
When he reached for a comment, Ron Watkins, the longtime administrator of 8kun and its predecessor, 8chan, said he withdrew from the organization last year and has “no idea what’s going on with it.”
Gendron wrote in his Discord diary that he started reading 4chan a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and that he was heavily influenced by Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people in a shooting 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 entries were shared with The Associated Press by Marc-André Argentino, a research fellow at the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence. He said it was possible, but it was unlikely the diary could have been altered by anyone other than the author.
Gendron said in the diary that he was specifically targeting a store with a predominantly black clientele that researched locations in Rochester, Syracuse and on Long Island before settling on Buffalo. Prosecutors say he showed up Saturday wearing body armor and armed with an AR-15-like rifle when a helmet-mounted camera streamed to the Internet.
Problems with his gun and then a fight with COVID-19 – which he theorized he got from a fast food chicken sandwich poisoned by government agents – prevented him from attacking earlier, he wrote in the diary.
Gendron wrote that he started thinking about “a personal attack on the substitutes” a few weeks before an episode in a high school class about a year ago. That episode led to him being taken to a hospital for a psychiatric examination.
A few weeks before the attack, Gendron wrote that neither his parents nor his brothers were aware of his plans, but that he feared they would find out.
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