Mass Shooting Apparently Planned On Discord, Streamed On Twitch, Investigated As Hate Crime [Updated]

·6-min read
A heavily-armed cop guarding what appears to be the backside of the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York.
A heavily-armed cop guarding what appears to be the backside of the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York.

Tragedy struck New York on May 14 as an 18-year-old white male shot and killed at least 10 people and wounded three others in the New York city of Buffalo, police said. The shooter, whose online username is reportedly “jimboboiii,” has been taken into custody after livestreaming the whole thing on the gaming platform Twitch, the company told Kotaku on Saturday evening. The shooter released a 180-page manifesto detailing his racist and anti-Semitic views, which he partially attributed to the controversial online forum 4chan as inspiration for the massacre. The document also mentioned what appears to be a private Discord chat server, where he allegedly detailed his plans in advance.

The shooting happened at a Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Street, a predominately Black suburban area in western New York state. According to the local outlet The Buffalo News, a witness said the store was “filled” and busy that day, apparently typical for a Saturday. jimboboiii, who Buffalo police identified as 18-year-old Payton Gendron, pulled up to the supermarket and immediately shot four people in the parking lot, killing all but one. Gendron then proceeded into the store, shooting multiple people, including a recently retired Buffalo police officer who was the store’s security guard. Most of the victims were Black.

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According to the Associated Press, Gendron comes from Conklin, a town about 200 miles southeast of Buffalo. Joseph Gramaglia, the just-nominated Buffalo city police commissioner, said in a press conference that Gendron was decked out in heavy armor. He had on “tactical gear, a tactical helmet, and a camera that he was livestreaming what he was doing.” While many are sharing a Twitch account connected to the shooter’s known username, the Amazon-owned company has terminated the Twitch channel known as “jimboboiii.”

Video of the incident has been pulled, though screenshots and short clips of the event are still floating around. And while jimboboiii’s Twitch channel has been removed, there is a YouTube channel possibly connected to him that hasn’t been updated in at least three years. He’s also got a PC gaming Steam account.

The long manifesto, which dives deep into the shooter’s supposed aims and mindset, cited 4chan as the source of his radicalization, noting, “There I learned through infographics, shitposts, and memes that the White race is dying out, that blacks are disproportionately killing Whites, that the average black takes $700,000 from tax-payers in their lifetime, and that the Jews and the elite were behind this.” It pointed to the Great Replacement theory, the false idea that the white population is being supplanted by immigrants and other races, as a partial cause for the attack. It noted that that specific area in Buffalo was targeted because it has “the highest black percentage close enough” to where the shooter allegedly lives. Elsewhere, the document referenced the 2019 Christchurch New Zealand mosque shooter as the person who “radicalized him the most” and said one of the goals of the Tops Friendly Market shooting was to “kill as many blacks as possible.” It also included not only step-by-step instructions for the mass shooting he intended to carry out, but diagrams, too.

Screenshots of Discord shared on social media, while not confirmed to be legitimate, also purport to show someone with the same username going into deep specifics about the planned action, apparently well ahead of the shooting.

A Twitch spokesperson told Kotaku over email that it’s saddened by the news and noted that it has strict “zero-tolerance” policies against any violence.

“We have investigated and confirmed we removed the stream less than two minutes after the violence started,” a spokesperson said. “We are devastated to hear about the shooting in Buffalo, New York. Our hearts go out to the community impacted by this tragedy. Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents. The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”

The shooter also mentioned 8chan as a spot where he intended to initially post his plans, with a 4chan link supposedly pointing back to where the OG 8chan post would live. An 8chan administrator told Kotaku over email that the alleged gunman never posted on its message board.

“After a thorough search there is no evidence that this person has ever posted on our small, hobbyist platform and we believe that he capitalized on the similar naming to the former 8chan to suit his agenda,” they wrote. “We denounce the actions and motivations of this killer in the strongest of terms, and we denounce any association between his acts and our website in equally strong terms.”

According to the New York Times, Discord said that it was both investigating the posts Gendron supposedly made on the private server before the shooting occurred and cooperating with law enforcement officials on the matter.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families, and we will do everything we can to assist law enforcement in the investigation,” the company said.

In the past, Discord has been has been open about extremism on the platform. In a transparency report reflecting only the second half of 2020 shared by the chatting social media network, Discord noted that it removed 1,500 private servers related to “violent extremism,” which at the time it stated was a “93% increase from the first half of the year.” Stats like this, alongside further research and media attention, have helped the narrative that groups like the far right on the platform have, as Wired once put it, “exploded.”

According to Discord, the apparent rise in numbers actually reflect proactive efforts on its part to deal with a larger issue on the internet; the 2020 report coincided with the rise of QAnon, for example. But back in 2017, the NYT claimed that Discord was the alt-right’s “favorite” chat app, apparently used at the time to help plan things like the Unite The Right rally that was attended by white supremacists, among others.

Kotaku has reached out to 4chan and Discord for comment.

Police have called the shooting a racially motivated hate crime, with a CBS News correspondent reporting that the Buffalo city FBI branch, its police department, and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating it as such. President Biden also declared the incident a racially motivated action of White supremacy. Payton Gendron, who was arraigned and charged with first-degree murder, has pleaded not guilty to his crimes, according to The Independent.

NPR reports this marks the 198th shooting in the U.S., only 19 weeks into 2022.

Developing...

Update: 5/15/22, 10:02 a.m. ET: Added comment from 8chan administrator.

Update: 5:15/22, 9:40 p.m. ET: Included some more details from the manifesto clarifying why the shooting’s being investigated as a hate crime.


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