Supermarket Shooting Suspect Linked to Online Hatred

·4 min read
BigDawg via Reuters
BigDawg via Reuters

The New York teenager accused of killing 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday afternoon in a “straight-up racially motivated hate crime” appears to have spent months before the attack spewing racist conspiracy theories on social media sites.

Law enforcement officials have named the alleged gunman as 18-year-old Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York. They also confirmed that Gendron livestreamed some of the attack.

Footage from the livestream, posted on the video platform Twitch, shows a man decked out in military garb filming from a helmet-mounted camera before exiting the car with a rifle, on which he appears to have painted racist slurs.

A spokesperson for Twitch confirmed to The Daily Beast that the shooting was broadcast live on the platform by a person with the username “jimboboiii.” They said they were “vigorously monitoring” to shut down any re-streams of the horrifying footage.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Payton Gendron appears in a jail booking photograph.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Erie County District Attorney</div>

Payton Gendron appears in a jail booking photograph.

Erie County District Attorney

A person using the same social media handle as Gendron’s Twitch account shared racist and antisemitic comments on Reddit and Discord in the months before the attack.

In addition, a hate-filled document that surfaced online soon after the assault was written under the name Payton Gendron and contained a vow to target Buffalo because of its large Black population. He wrote that he would specifically target Black people, both inside and outside the Tops store, which was mentioned by name and location.

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That document also described plans to murder an armed security guard on duty and included a crude sketch of the store and where the author expected the guard to stand inside. It anticipated a gun fight, and described how the author planned to absorb shots with body armor.

The manifesto also pays tribute to the gunman in the Christchurch, New Zealand, shootings, who killed 51 people at two mosques—referring to the 2019 mass shooter as “the person that radicalized [me] the most.” The writer specifically lauds the earlier gunman’s obsession with the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, a racist fantasy about a supposed plot to eliminate white people.

The shooter thus appears to have followed in the footsteps of notorious white supremacist gunmen like those in the 2019 massacres in El Paso, Texas; Poway, California; and the 2018 attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The document also included some biographical details, noting that the author lived with his two brothers and parents. A neighbor of the Gendron family told The Daily Beast the 18-year-old has two brothers.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Payton Gendron’s home in Conklin, New York.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Angus Mordant/Reuters</div>

Payton Gendron’s home in Conklin, New York.

Angus Mordant/Reuters

Law enforcement sources have told The Daily Beast that they are investigating a possible manifesto, but the document could not be authenticated in the hours after the massacre. It’s not clear if the version that was circulating online could have been altered by someone.

A person using the username “Jimbo Boiii” also posted a review online for a pawn shop near Gendron’s hometown, which is a three-hour drive from Buffalo. The shop advertises its purchase and sale of coins, a theme in both the Reddit account and the purported manifesto. The writer of the latter described accruing gold and silver pieces as a way to spite national governments that print paper money, and the Jewish people he imagined control them.

A user going by the name “Jimboboiii” also sought advice online about body armor and ammunition that could defeat it, according to nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot. Two years ago, he posted a query on Discord asking how many “non penetrative bullets like 9×19 rounds will it take to go through something like level 4 ceramic body armor?” and, “Would a 30-06 M2 Alternative be better at penetrating armor than a regular M2 Ball? […] I mean M2 alternative i bought some at a gun store the other day.”

In the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called out social media for enabling the gunman to spread his views.

“The social media platforms that profit from their existence need to be responsible for monitoring... They can in a sense become an accomplice, if not legally but morally,” she told reporters.

At an evening press conference, Buffalo officials said there was no known contact between law enforcement and Gendron and that they had no warning of the attack.

However, The Buffalo News, citing a government official, said that while Gendron was in high school, he made comments about attacking a graduation ceremony and was referred to mental health counseling.

After graduating high school, Gendron was enrolled at SUNY Broome Community College but it was not immediately clear how long he studied there. A spokeswoman for the school described him as a “former student.”

—Eileen Grench contributed reporting

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