Law enforcement is investigating whether a retired federal agent had about 30 minutes’ notice of a white supremacist’s plans to murder black people at a Buffalo supermarket, two law enforcement officials said. law enforcement at The Buffalo News.
Authorities believe the former agent – believed to be from Texas – was one of at least six people who regularly communicated with accused gunman Payton Gendron in an online chat room where racial hatred was discussed , the two officials said.
The two law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the investigation said these individuals were asked by Gendron to learn about his mass shooting plans and target location approximately 30 minutes before Gendron kills 10 people at Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue on May 14.
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The News could not determine if the retired agent accepted the invitation.
“These were like-minded people who used this discussion group to talk about their shared interests in race hatred, replacement theory and hatred of all Jewish people, whether colored or not of European descent” , said one of the two law enforcement officials. officials with in-depth knowledge of the investigation. “What’s particularly heartbreaking is that these six people were given advance notice of the Buffalo shooting, approximately 30 minutes before it happened.
“The FBI has verified that none of these people called law enforcement to notify them of the shooting. The FBI database shows no prior advice from anyone that this shooting was about to happen.
FBI agents are tracking down and interviewing the six people, including the retired agent, and are trying to determine if any of them should be charged with complicity, the two sources with knowledge of the matter said. closely investigated at The Buffalo News.
The two sources did not identify the agent by name and could not confirm which federal agency he worked for.
The Buffalo FBI office declined to comment on the investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo declined through a spokeswoman to comment.
Buffalo civil rights attorney John V. Elmore said it would be outrageous if it turned out that a former law enforcement officer had been given advance notice of the shooting and didn’t had done nothing to prevent it.
‘If he had been given advance notice, he had a moral obligation to phone and try to let someone know,’ said Elmore, who represents the family of Andre Mackniel, who was shot. as he drove to Tops to buy a birthday. cake for her 3 year old son.
Attorney Terrence M. Connors, who represents several families who lost loved ones in the shooting, said: “As outrageous as it may seem, based on what we find in our investigation, it’s not surprising .” He refused to reveal the evidence his law firm collected.
The New York Times reported on May 17 that Gendron invited a small group of people to a private chat room on the Discord messaging platform to review his plan about 30 minutes before the Tops massacre. The Washington Post reported two days later that 15 people accepted Gendron’s invitation to the Discord chat room and were able to review his plan and watch his live video as he carried out the murders.
Federal authorities are investigating whether the retired officer provided information to Gendron before embarking on his shooting, the two law enforcement officials told The News.
In addition to law enforcement sources, two other people with knowledge of the mass shooting investigation also confirmed that federal authorities are investigating the former officer’s relationship with the shooter.
FBI agents are also trying to determine the identity of an individual whom Gendron calls “Sandman” and “Saint Sandman” in his lengthy social media diary that appeared on Discord 30 minutes before the attack, the sources said.
In the diary, Gendron indicates that Sandman advised him on the manufacturers of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and their quality. The shooter purchased and allegedly used this type of assault rifle during the rampage, which local authorities say was fueled by his racial hatred.
In the document that Gendron posted on Discord just before filming, he makes three references to Sandman.
In a passage dated May 2, he quotes Saint Sandman saying, “When the time finally comes to deal decisively with a whole host of societal problems, and not go to jail for it, you will know it. Just be ready. You have spent your whole life, from the day you were born, until this very moment, reading this sentence, coming to where you are right now. Look around you. Are you satisfied with where are you right now? Are you where you want to be? If so, keep walking. If not, what are you going to do? What is your plan? Keep your mind, body and spirit upright. Pray. Lift .Run.Read.Shoot.And teach your kids to do these things.
A third law enforcement source told The News they were aware of Gendron’s writings regarding the quality of different rifles. The shooter ended up using a Bushmaster X-15, a version of the AR-15 rifle, police said.
Journalist Caitlin Dewey contributed to this report.