Carolyn Thompson, Michael R. Sisak and Eric Tucker
BUFFALA, NY (AP) – A white gunman accused of massacring 10 black people at a Buffalo supermarket wrote back in November about organizing a live attack on African Americans, practiced shooting from his car and drove for hours from his home in March to reconnoiter. from the store, according to detailed diary entries he appears to have posted online.
The author of the diary posted a hand-drawn map of the grocery store along with counting the number of black people he counted there, and recounted how a black supermarket security guard ran into him that day to ask what he was up to. Among those killed in Saturday’s shootout was a black guard.
The diary, taken from the Discord chat platform, appeared two days after 18-year-old Peyton Hendron allegedly opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle at Tops Friendly Market. He was wearing a body armor and used a helmet camera to broadcast a bloodbath online, authorities said.
He surrendered at a supermarket and was prosecuted on charges of murder last weekend. He pleaded not guilty and was jailed for suicide. Federal authorities are considering charges of hate crime.
Copies of the Internet materials were provided by The Associated Press by Marc-Andre Argentina, a researcher at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence in London.
A transcript of the diary entries was apparently published sometime before the attack. It was unclear how many people could see the records. Experts said it was possible, but unlikely, that the diary could have been altered by someone other than the author.
Buffalo chief FBI agent Stephen Belongi told other officials Monday that investigators were looking at Hendron’s activities at Discord, citing reports last summer about body armor and weapons and others in which he mocked federal authorities. In a call received by the AP, Belarus did not report.
But in a April 17 letter, apparently authored by Hendron, he urged readers to kill agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Requests for comment were left by Hendron’s lawyer. No one opened the door to his family home.
Violence has spread grief and anger in Buffalo and beyond.
Former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr., who lost his 86-year-old mother Ruth Whitfield in a shooting, asked how the country could allow a history of racist killings to be repeated.
“It simply came to our notice then. We are angry, ”Whitfield told a news conference with civil rights lawyer Ben Trump and others. “We treat people decently and love even our enemies.”
“And you expect us to do it again and again and again – again, forgive and forget,” he continued. “While the people we elect and trust in offices across the country are doing their best not to protect us, not to consider us equal.”
Among the victims was also a man who was buying a cake for his grandson; a church deacon who helps people get home with groceries; and a supermarket security guard.
The online diary details the writer’s March 8 reconnaissance visit to Buffalo, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from Hendron’s home in Canclin, New York.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramalia told a news conference that there was information in March that Hendron was in Buffalo, but Gramalia declined to say more.
The commissioner said many investigators are working to obtain and verify Hendron’s messages online.
“There’s a lot of social that’s being reviewed, or checked, recorded,” Gramaglia said. “Some of these require warrants to be submitted on various social networking platforms.”
The author of the diary told about the inspection of facilities, including Tops Friendly Market, and said that the security guard asked what he was doing after the second visit of the day. He apologized for the data collection and soon left – he wrote a “careful call”.
A 180-page document allegedly written by Hendron says the attack was aimed at terrorizing all non-white, non-Christian people and forcing them to leave the country. Federal authorities have said they are working to verify the authenticity of the document.
Hendron was briefly on the radar of the authorities last spring when state police were called to his high school to report that then the 17-year-old had made threatening statements.
Belongia, an FBI agent, said Hendron answered a question about future plans by saying he wanted to commit suicide.
A December letter to Discord, apparently made by Hendron, said he gave such an answer to the question of retirement in economy class and ended up spending “one of the worst nights of my life” in the hospital.
Gramaglia said Hendron was no longer in contact with law enforcement after a mental health examination that placed him in the hospital for a day and a half. During a conversation with Belongia, Gramaglia said that at the time, state police “did everything within the law.”
It was unclear whether officials could refer to New York’s “red flag” regulations, which allow law enforcement, school officials and families to sue for weapons confiscated from people considered dangerous.
Federal law prohibits people from owning a weapon if a judge finds that they have a “mental defect” or have been forced to stay in a psychiatric facility. An assessment alone will not lead to a ban.
At the White House, President Joe Biden, who was planning a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, paid tribute to the slain guard, retired police officer Aaron Salter.
Salter shot the attacker several times, hitting him at least once with his armored vest before he was killed. Biden said Salter “gave his life trying to save others.”
Authorities said that in addition to the 10 blacks killed, three people were injured: one black, two white.
Zenet Everhart said her son, a Zaire Goodman supermarket employee, was helping a shopper on the street when he saw a man get out of a car in military gear and point a gun at him. The bullet then hit Goodman in the neck.
“Mom! Mom, come here now, come here! I was shot! ” He said to his mother on the phone. The 20-year-old Goodman was released from the hospital and was feeling well on Monday, his mother said.
In a live video of the attack, which is spreading on the Internet, an armed man aimed his weapon at a white man who bent down behind a slant, but said: “I’m sorry!” and did not shoot. The screenshots, presumably from the broadcast, apparently show a racial insult against black people smeared on his rifle.
This story has been corrected to show that Whitfield, not his father, is a former commissioner for firefighters in Buffalo.
Associated Press reporters Robert Bamstead in Buffalo; Michael Hill in Canclin; Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut; and Karen Matthews, Aaron Morrison and Jennifer Peltz of New York contributed to this report. Tucker and Balsam reported from Washington, and Sisak from New York.