Ugly Chat Logs Show Months of Racist Plotting by Buffalo Suspect

·6 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Reuters
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Reuters

A white supremacist accused of murdering 10 people and injuring three more at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket previously mulled other locations, including schools, churches, and malls in multiple upstate and western New York cities like Rochester, his internet writings reveal.

Payton Gendron is accused of opening fire at a Tops Friendly supermarket on Saturday afternoon. A manifesto released online shortly before the shooting suggested that the shooter specifically targeted that supermarket because it was located in a neighborhood with a large Black population. The manifesto is currently under investigation by law enforcement.

But Gendron also kept detailed logs of his alleged plans on the messaging app Discord, dating back until at least November 2021. Those logs, reviewed by The Daily Beast, reveal an aspiring killer who was inspired by past racist massacres and hoped to recreate them against Black New Yorkers.

Gendron routinely shared personally-identifying information on Discord, including selfies and videos. On multiple occasions, he uploaded high-school yearbook photographs of himself, with details that match prior reporting about his behavior in school, like his decision to wear a hazmat suit at the start of the 2020 school year. In January, he shared racist posts about Black people, accompanied by a photo of what he described as his college cafeteria. That picture was taken in a cafeteria at SUNY Broome, where he was enrolled as a student. In the logs, he also blamed his tinnitus (a recurring grievance an account tied to him raised in Reddit posts) on Black people.

And in the days before the attack, he used Discord to share pictures of himself inside and outside a blue Ford Taurus. Among those pictures are a selfie and multiple pictures of rifles decorated with racist slurs and references to previous mass killers. Video Gendron allegedly live-streamed from the shooting shows him driving a blue Ford with an interior that appears to match that of the Taurus, and a rifle used in the attack bore at least some of the same slurs.

Gendron’s public defender, Brian K. Parker, did not immediately return messages on Monday. Neither Discord nor Buffalo Police immediately responded to requests for comment. The FBI and the Erie County District Attorney declined to comment.

The Discord logs, which date back some six months, show a lengthy planning process. In early December, Gendron announced plans to commit a mass shooting in March, in tribute to a white supremacist massacre at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The shooting is an obsession among certain white supremacists, some of whom have attempted to replicate the attack.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Screenshot/Discord</div>
Screenshot/Discord

“Attack begins on March 15, 2022, 3 years after the Christchurch mass shooting,” he wrote.

“I’ve been planning this attack for what seems like years now, every day that goes by it feels less like a joke and more real,” he added.

He also alluded to at least briefly raising alarm among local authorities.

“I spent 20 hours in a hospital’s emergency room on 5/28/2021. This was because I answered murder/suicide to the question ‘what do you want to do when you retire?’ on an online assignment in my Economics class,” he wrote under the name Jimboboiii (which was also used to live stream the attack). The New York Times previously reported that Gendron made a similar threat around the end of the school year, and was taken in for evaluation by state police approximately a week after Gendron’s self-described emergency room visit.

While at the hospital, he continued, he “was thinking of a personal attack against the replacers at this point, and I had watched the Christchurch mass shooting a few weeks previously and began reading up on his motives and beliefs.” The mention of “replacers” is a reference to a racist conspiracy theory that has seen increased support from right-wing voices like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

A student at SUNY Broome in New York’s southern tier at the time of many of his writings, Gendron lamented that his predominately white locale was not a good place for a mass murder. Instead, he mulled trips to other New York cities with larger Black populations.

He also logged his purchases of ammunition and body armor throughout January and noted that he was considering suicide, before changing course. “There is no turning back now, I am fully commited [sic] to using all my resources and power to commit this attack,” he wrote that month.

Days after praising the Christchurch shooting, Jimboboiii wrote that “Northern Rochester may be a good location” for his future hate crime, as would “Mount Vernon and Hempstead.”

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For some time, he appears to have homed in on Rochester, even sketching a map of the city and its suburbs, with predominantly Black areas highlighted in red. He mulled specific locations for a mass shooting, like a Rochester Walmart. “Perhaps a super market would be a better option for attack,” he wrote, in a message that forecasted his eventual attack. “Wegmans or something.”

“Rochester mall?” he mused on Christmas day, accompanied by a link to a video of a Black man quizzing shoppers about rap music at Greece Ridge Mall, a shopping center in the area. He wrote of his need to “make some trips to rochester to check out areas of attack.”

Gendron appears to have shifted focus to another area mall later, noting in February that “Marketplace mall is another option.”

Repeatedly throughout his planning, he discussed trying to kill as many Black people as possible. “I need to check the walmart on a monday evening so I can get an idea of the races that enter,” he wrote that same day. “according to google maps it’s all whites.”

He also suggested targeting Black children, or Black churchgoers.

“A church would be interesting for the large amount of people in one place, but idk I get a bad feeling about doing it in a church,” he said, noting the Christchurch killer’s “successful” attack on mosques.

He posted the name of a specific Buffalo school, which accepts children as young as three for its preschool classes. “I would also try to attack a black elementary school, but I’m not sure how I would get in,” he wrote.

On Jan. 20, Jimboboiii wrote, Maybe even a synagogue would be a desirable place for an attack,” before deciding against it: “March 15 is a monday though…” (March 15 was a Sunday, when churches would be in session, but synagogues would not.)

Days before his original target date for a mass shooting, Gendron decided to change his plan due to issues with his weapons, the chat logs suggest. Around the same time, he was doing reconnaissance, including at a Tops in Buffalo, driving hours away to surveil one such store.

“When I was exiting the black armed security guard came up to me and said ‘I’ve seen you go in and out... What are you doing?’” he wrote. “And I said I was collecting consensus data, he said if I talked to the manager about it and I said no, and then he said I have to talk to him first.

“I asked for his name and he told me and I instantly forgot, then I said bye and thanks and walked back to my car,” Gendron added. “In hindsight that was a close call.”

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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