Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, Buffalo News, May 26, 2022
Law enforcement officers are investigating whether a retired federal agent had about 30 minutes advance notice of a white supremacist’s plans to murder Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, two law enforcement officials told The Buffalo News.
Authorities believe the former agent – believed to be from Texas – was one of at least six individuals who regularly communicated with accused gunman Payton Gendron in an online chat room where racist hatred was discussed, the two officials said.
The two law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the investigation stated these individuals were invited by Gendron to read about his mass shooting plans and the target location about 30 minutes before Gendron killed 10 people at Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue on May 14.
The News could not determine if the retired agent accepted the invitation.
“These were like-minded people who used this chat group to talk about their shared interests in racial hatred, replacement theory and hatred of anyone who is Jewish, a person of color or not of European ancestry,” said one of the two law enforcement officials with close knowledge of the investigation. “What is especially upsetting is that these six people received advanced notice of the Buffalo shooting, about 30 minutes before it happened.
“The FBI has verified that none of these people called law enforcement to warn them about the shooting. The FBI database shows no advance tips from anyone that this shooting was about to happen.”
Agents from the FBI are in the process of tracking down and interviewing the six people, including the retired agent, and attempting to determine if any of them should be charged as accomplices, the two sources with close knowledge of the probe told The Buffalo News.
The two sources did not identify the agent by name and could not confirm what federal agency he worked for.
The New York Times reported May 17 that Gendron invited a small group of people into a private chat room on the messaging platform Discord to review his plan about 30 minutes before the massacre at Tops. The Washington Post reported two days later that 15 people accepted Gendron’s invitation into the Discord chat room and were able to review his plan and watch his live stream video as he committed the killings.
Federal authorities are investigating if the retired agent provided information to Gendron before he went on his shooting spree, the two law enforcement officials told The News.