BUFFALO, NY (AP) — The white gunman accused of massacring 10 black people at a Buffalo supermarket wrote as early as November about staging a live attack on African Americans, has been practicing shooting since his car and drove for hours from his home in March to scout the store, according to detailed diary entries he appears to have posted online.
The newspaper writer published hand-drawn maps of the grocery store along with the number of black people he counted there, and recounted how a black security guard at the supermarket confronted him that day to ask him what he was doing. A black security guard was among the dead in Saturday’s shooting.
The log taken from the Discord chat platform was revealed two days after 18-year-old Payton Gendron allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 rifle at Tops Friendly Market. He wore a bulletproof vest and used a helmet camera to livestream the bloodbath to the internet, authorities said.
He went inside the supermarket and was charged with murder over the weekend. He pleaded not guilty and was jailed on suicide watch. Federal authorities are considering bringing hate crime charges.
Copies of the online documents were shared with The Associated Press by Marc-André Argentino, a researcher at the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence.
A transcript of the diary entries was apparently released publicly before the attack. It was unclear how many people might have seen the entries. Experts said it was possible but unlikely that the diary could have been edited by anyone other than the author.
Buffalo FBI lead agent Stephen Belongia said in a call Monday with other officials that investigators were looking into Gendron’s Discord activity, citing posts last summer about body armor and body armor. firearms and others last month in which he taunted federal authorities. Belongia gave no details in the call, of which the AP obtained a recording.
But in an April 17 article apparently by Gendron, he urged readers to kill FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents.
Messages seeking comment were left for Gendron’s attorneys. No one answered the door of the family home.
The violence has brought grief and anger to Buffalo and beyond.
Former Buffalo Fire Marshal Garnell Whitfield Jr., who lost his 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, in the shooting, asked how the country could allow its history of racially charged killings to repeat itself.
“We don’t just suffer. We are angry,” Whitfield said during a press conference with civil rights attorney Ben Crump and others. “We treat people with decency, and we even love our enemies.”
“And you expect us to keep doing it over and over and over – over and over, forgive and forget,” he continued. “While the people we elect and trust in office in this country are doing their best not to protect us, not to see us as equals.”
Among the victims were also a man buying a cake for his grandson; a church deacon helping people get home with their groceries; and a supermarket security guard.
The online diary details a reconnaissance visit the writer made March 8 to Buffalo, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from Gendron’s home in Conklin, New York.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news conference there was information indicating Gendron was in Buffalo in March, but Gramaglia declined to elaborate.
The commissioner said many investigators were working to obtain and review Gendron’s online postings.
“There are a lot of social networks that are scrutinized, or verified, captured,” Gramaglia said. “Part of that involves warrants that need to be served on various social media platforms.”
The newspaper writer spoke about checking targets, including the Tops Friendly Market, and said a security guard asked him what he was doing after his second visit of the day. He gave an excuse about the data collection and quickly left — “a close call,” he wrote.
A 180-page document allegedly written by Gendron said the attack was intended to terrorize all non-whites and non-Christians and drive them out of the country. Federal authorities said they are working to confirm the authenticity of the document.
Gendron had briefly been on authorities’ radar last spring, when state police were called to his high school for a report that the 17-year-old had made threatening statements.
Belongia, the FBI agent, said Gendron answered a question about future plans by saying he wanted to commit a murder-suicide.
A December Discord post Gendron apparently posted said he gave this answer to a question about retirement in an economics class and ended up spending “one of the worst nights of my life” in a hospital. .
Gramaglia said Gendron had no further contact with law enforcement after a mental health evaluation that landed him in the hospital for a day and a half. During the call with Belongia, Gramaglia said state police “did everything within the bounds of the law” at the time.
It was unclear whether authorities could have invoked New York’s ‘red flag’ rule, which allows law enforcement, school officials and families to ask a court to order the seizure of weapons fire to people considered dangerous.
Federal law prohibits people from owning firearms if a judge has determined they have a “mental defect” or were forcibly placed in a mental institution. A rating alone would not trigger the ban.
At the White House, President Joe Biden, who was planning a Tuesday visit to Buffalo, paid tribute to the slain security guard, retired police officer Aaron Salter.
Salter shot the attacker repeatedly, hitting his armored vest at least once before being shot and killed. Biden said Salter “gave his life trying to save others.”
Authorities said that in addition to the 10 black people killed, three people were injured: one black, two white.
Zeneta Everhart said her son, supermarket worker Zaire Goodman, was helping a customer outside when he saw a man get out of a car in military gear and point a gun at him. Then a bullet hit Goodman in the neck.
“Mom! Mom, come here now, come here now! I got shot!” he told his mother over the phone. Goodman, 20, was discharged from hospital and doing well on Monday, his mother said.
In live video of the attack circulating online, the shooter pointed his gun at a white person cowering behind a checkout counter, but said, “Sorry!” and did not shoot. Screenshots claiming to be from the show appear to show a racial slur against black people scrawled on his gun.
This story has been corrected to show that Whitfield, not his father, is a former Buffalo Fire Marshal.
Associated Press reporter Robert Bumsted in Buffalo; Michael Hill in Conklin; Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut; Michael Balsamo in Washington; and Karen Matthews, Aaron Morrison and Jennifer Peltz in New York; contributed to this report. Tucker reported from Washington and Sisak from New York.