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The shooter in Buffalo, N.Y., appeared to have become radicalized online


An 18-year-old white man has been charged in a mass shooting that happened yesterday in Buffalo, N.Y. Officials say he was motivated by racism. Authorities say Payton Gendron shot 13 people, killing 10. The attack happened at a Topps Friendly Market in a predominantly Black area. NPR's Odette Yousef covers domestic extremism and joins us now. Odette, what do we know right now about Gendron?

ODETTE YOUSEF, BYLINE: Well, Ayesha, from his arraignment yesterday, we learned that Gendron is from Conklin, N.Y., which is about 200 miles away from Buffalo. He's pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges. He livestreamed this attack on the video platform Twitch, which is popular with video gamers. The company has removed that channel. And authorities are investigating whether he authored a 180-page online document that lays out ideology and planning behind the attack.

RASCOE: Google reportedly removed the document, but you were able to read through it. What jumped out at you?

YOUSEF: Well, its author frames himself as a kind of lone wolf, claiming he's not a member of any organizations. But, you know, the worldview, Ayesha, that he shares is a mashup of hate propaganda that a number of movements have been advancing. He's a believer in the great replacement conspiracy theory, which is that a cabal of powerful elite are systematically replacing white people by permitting immigration and promoting diversity. You know, this is an idea that used to exist just on the fringes, but it has since gained traction. And, in fact, a poll released last month from the Associated Press-NORC Center found that nearly 1 in 3 American adults now believe in that.

You know, Ayesha, the writing contains sort of a toxic cocktail of biological racism, anti-Semitism, accelerationism - you name it. It suggests that the author really took time to plan the details of the attack, from researching a zip code with a high percentage of Black residents that he could drive to, down to a floor plan of the grocery store and notes about how many security guards it had and the weaponry that they carry. And one thing that really did jump out to me was the radicalization process that the author described he had gone through. He wrote that he had begun visiting sites like 4chan two years ago because he was bored at home with the COVID lockdowns and that that led him to other sites that traffic in hate and conspiracy theories. And ultimately, he cites the person who committed mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 as the key element in his decision to become violent. You'll recall, of course, Ayesha, that that individual also livestreamed his attack on social media.

RASCOE: So let's talk about that element of this, the livestreaming. This was something that New York Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted in her remarks yesterday evening.

YOUSEF: That's right. You know, that video was reportedly only up for two minutes before Twitch took the channel down. But still, Governor Hochul highlighted the aspect of - that aspect of the attack along with other alleged social media activity of the suspect. Here's what she said.


KATHY HOCHUL: Those who provide these platforms have a moral and ethical and, I hope to have, a legal responsibility to ensure that such hate cannot populate these sites because this is the result when you have individuals who use these platforms and talk to others who share these demented views and support each other and talk about the techniques that they'll engage in.

YOUSEF: You know, there have always been transnational aspects to extremism, Ayesha. You know, back in the '90s, neo-Nazi skinheads were travelling internationally to hold neo-Nazi concerts, for example. But the real-time and mass reach of livestreaming platforms, particularly when they show people in the moment of committing acts of violence, is relatively new and obviously troubling here, given how the author of this manifesto allegedly drew inspiration from another livestreamed attack.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Odette Yousef. Thank you so much.

YOUSEF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Odette Yousef
Odette Yousef is a National Security correspondent focusing on extremism.