15 people joined chatroom of Buffalo suspect just before shooting
The suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., invited people to a chatroom on the messaging platform Discord just before he shot and killed 10 people, according to an invitation for the room reviewed by The Washington Post.
The Post obtained a copy of an invitation to a private server from alleged shooter Payton Gendron, titled “Happening: This is not a drill,” right before he shot 13 people at a Tops grocery store.
A person familiar with the matter told the outlet that 15 people joined the room, prompting investigators to look into the possibility that Gendron was encouraged by online friends.
The discovery means more people were able to watch the shooting than initially believed, with authorities aware shortly after the shooting that the suspect had livestreamed the event on Twitch.
The Post says a review of the shooter’s Discord server shows a number of racist messages and planning that had been on the private server for the mass shooting dating back as far as six months.
“What we know at this time is that a private, invite-only server was created by the suspect to serve as a personal diary chat log. Approximately 30 minutes prior to the attack, however, a small group of people were invited to and joined the server. Before that, our records indicate no other people saw the diary chat log in this private server,” a Discord spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.
The spokesperson added that the company’s “deepest sympathies” go out to the families and the victims of the attack.
“Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to combating violence and extremism,” the statement continued.
Gendron allegedly espoused racist conspiracy theories and drove hours to commit the shooting in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of the 13 victims were Black.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia has called the shooting a “straight-up racially motivated hate crime.”
The source told the Post authorities are unaware of what the 15 Discord members who accepted the shooter’s invitation did after they joined his server.
Discord issued a statement on Wednesday saying they are working with law enforcement to assist the investigation.
The Hill has reached out to the Erie County Sherriff’s Office for comment.
Updated May 21, 2:35 p.m.
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