Hours before he set off on the three-hour drive from his home in Conklin, New York, and killed 10 people in a racially motivated mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Market, the alleged Buffalo shooter shared details of what he was about to do with people he knew online.
When one of those acquaintances opened the link to a private Discord server on Saturday, they found a detailed to-do list that dated back to March 5, which included points such as “finish writing manifesto”; “clean and oil AR”; and “write goodbye list.” An “X” next to each item indicated the task had been completed.
Throughout March and April, other items were crossed off the list, including: “Make better maps and draw the plan out.”
The final item in the list was dated May 12, two days before the horrific shooting: “Get superglue and super glue helmet mount to helmet.”
This item wasn’t marked as completed, but by the time the suspect took his parents’ car and made the three-hour trip to Buffalo, he had mounted a camera onto his helmet and proceeded to broadcast the horrific attack on livestreaming service Twitch.
In total, he allegedly shot 13 people, killing at least 10 of them. Eleven of those who were shot were Black.
The alleged gunman was arraigned before Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah on a first-degree murder charge on Saturday and likely faces further charges. If found guilty, he faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“I understand my charges,” the suspect told the judge while pleading not guilty to the charges. He is due back in court on Thursday morning.
In a manifesto posted online days before the attack, the suspect said he picked the location for the attack because it was in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
“This was pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said in a news conference. “It was a straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community.”
Who is the alleged shooter?
He was born on June 20, 2003 and was raised in Conklin, according to his parents’ social media pages.
He attended school in the Susquehanna Valley Central School District before attending the State University of New York (SUNY) Broome Community College, but is no longer studying there, a college spokeswoman told the Buffalo News. In the manifesto, he claimed he was studying engineering science.
While the FBI has said that he was “not on the radar” of federal authorities, he had come to the attention of police in his hometown in the last 12 months.
In June, 2021, students at Susquehanna Valley High School outside Binghamton, New York, were asked to prepare a school project about what they would do after high school. The suspect, according to one official, said he wanted to do a murder-suicide, maybe during graduation, an official told USA Today.
The suspect said it was a joke, but the police were called and he spent a day-and-a-half in hospital as part of a mental health assessment. He was eventually released and had no further contact with law enforcement until Saturday.
Asked by reporters why the alleged shooter’s behavior did not trigger New York State’s “red flag law,” which “prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Monday, “I’m investigating that right now.”
On Saturday, the suspect took his parents’ car and drove three hours from Conklin to Buffalo.
He dressed in combat gear, including armor-plated bulletproof vests, and shortly before he arrived at his destination, turned on his camera and started livestreaming on Twitch.
The video was only viewed live by a few dozen people, and Twitch quickly removed it, but not before it was recorded and shared online. One copy of the video was viewed over 3 million times on the platform Streamable before it was taken down, and it continues to proliferate on Facebook.
Clips of the livestream reviewed by VICE News show him driving through streets surrounding the store before arriving in the parking lot and saying to his audience: “I’ve just got to go for it, right?
As soon as he exits his car, the shooter opens fire on people in the parking lot with a semiautomatic rifle.
On the rifle, the shooter appears to have written the name of a victim of the 2021 Waukesha parade massacre, when an SUV plowed through a Christmas parade in Wisconsin. Officers also said the shooter had scrawled the n-word and white supremacist code words and symbols on the gun, and sources speaking to the New York Post said the gun bore the phrase: “Here’s your reparations.”
In total, the gunman shot four people in the parking lot before moving inside the store and shooting nine others. One of those shot and killed by the shooter was 55-year-old retired Buffalo police officer, Aaron Salter, who worked at the grocery store as a security guard. Salter fired at the shooter but the suspect’s armor-plated bulletproof vest absorbed the shot.
The footage of the shooting shows the gunman killing several victims at close range. Just before the livestream cut out, the shooter points the gun at a white man hiding behind a cash register, before realizing the person was white, saying “sorry,” and moving on.
After the police arrived at the scene, the gunman came outside. He initially put the gun to his chin making it look like he was going to take his own life. But he subsequently put the gun down, took off his combat gear, and surrendered to police.
A 180-page manifesto was posted online in the days prior to the shooting and claims to be authored by the alleged shooter. Law enforcement officials have yet to confirm that the 180-page racist screen was written by the suspect, but they are still using it to further their investigation.
"We are obviously going through that with a fine-toothed comb and reviewing that for all evidence that may lead us to besides the manifesto itself," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn told CNN on Sunday afternoon.
“All the evidence that we ascertain from that manifesto, from wherever that manifesto leads us, other pieces of evidence we already had, we can then use that and develop more charges potentially.”
The manifesto, obtained by VICE News, features on the front an image of a sonnenrad or sunwheel. Known as the “black sun,” it was a symbol of the Third Reich and later popularized by neo-Nazi terror groups and the Christchurch shooter and is now a shorthand signifier for violent white nationalism in online far-right circles.
The manifesto is filled with references to “white genocide” and the “great replacement” theory, railing against illegal immigration and claiming a cabal of powerful Jewish elites are running the world.
The manifesto was uploaded to Google Docs on Thursday, according to data reviewed by NBC. In it, the author claims he was radicalized on 4chan during the early months of the pandemic, and it is filled with racist memes typical of the fringe message board.
How he got his gun
The gun allegedly used in the shooting was a used Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic rifle. It was purchased legally from a licensed firearms dealer near Payton’s home but the shooter reportedly illegally modified the gun to allow it to use a high-capacity magazine.
In online posts, reported by the Washington Post, the shooter boasted about amassing an arsenal of weapons. Police said a shotgun and a rifle were found in the car he drove to Tops on Saturday. He said in online posts that the semiautomatic rifle was a present from his father for his 16th birthday.
The suspect claimed that he bought the Bushmaster in January from Vintage Firearms, a small gun store about 15 miles from his home, and paid $960 for the rifle, a sling to carry it, and some ammunition.
This was confirmed by the owner of the store, Robert Donald, who told ABC News that a background check raised no flags and that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms visited his shop on Saturday night to collect paperwork from the sale.
“I happened to have this particular gun at this particular time,” Donald told ABC. “And this particular guy happened to buy it. After the gun leaves the firearm shop, you have no control.”
The suspect said in an online post that he had used his father’s power drill to remove a state-mandated lock that prevents the attachment of a magazine with more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
The Buffalo massacre, which was one of five mass-shootings in the U.S. this weekend, has once again raised questions about gun control in the country.
“Once again, a military-bred assault rifle equipped with a high-capacity ammunition magazine was used for the exact purpose for which it was designed: to kill and injure as many people as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center said in a statement Sunday.
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