Federal officials investigating the deadly Buffalo grocery store shooting are trying to find out if a retired federal agent from Texas, who reportedly talked to the alleged shooter online frequently, was one of a handful of people who knew about the shooting about 30 minutes before the attack was carried out.
Payton Gendron, 18, invited around 30 people in a chatroom devoted to racism to read his White supremacist ramblings and then showed them his plans less than an hour before he went to Tops Supermarket and allegedly killed 10 Black people, according to The Buffalo News.
The unnamed retired agent from an unnamed agency was reportedly among those invited to see Gendron’s plans, but it’s unclear if he accepted, two law enforcement officials told the newspaper.
The former agent and six others suspected of regularly chatting with Gendron on the forum could potentially be charged as accomplices. The FBI is attempting to find and interview them.
The FBI has confirmed that no officials were warned by any individuals of what the alleged shooter planned to do before the attack, an official said.
"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," one of the officials told the Buffalo News. "What is especially upsetting is that these six people received advanced notice of the Buffalo shooting, about 30 minutes before it happened."
He added, "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."
Officials say Gendron traveled from three hours away, specifically targeting Black shoppers in the store.
John V. Elmore, a local civil rights attorney said, "If he had advance notice, he had a moral obligation to get on the phone and try to notify someone about it."
He represents the family of Andre Mackniel, 53, who was one of the 10 people killed in the attack. He was buying a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son.
The six people who could potentially face charges may have been among 15 people in the chatroom who accepted Gendron’s invitation to review his plans and watch him live-stream the attack on Twitch.