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Law enforcement officials in Buffalo, New York, are reportedly investigating whether a retired federal agent, along with at least five other individuals, knew about Payton Gendron's plans to murder black people at a Tops supermarket earlier this month approximately 30 minutes before they were carried out.
Authorities believe the six individuals were part of a group that regularly communicated with Gendron in an online chat room on Discord where racist hatred was discussed, the Buffalo News reported, citing two officials with direct knowledge of the investigation.
The officials reportedly told the outlet that Gendron invited the individuals in question — including the retired agent, who is believed to be from Texas — to read over the details of his mass shooting plans, which included the target location.
On Saturday, May 14, at around 2:30 p.m., Gendron ambushed a Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly black area of Buffalo, opening fire on innocent bystanders both inside and outside the store and killing 10 before he was apprehended.
The New York Times first reported on May 17 that Gendron had made his plans available for viewing by invite about 30 minutes before the massacre. And a couple days later, the Washington Post reported that 15 users had accepted the invite.
The Buffalo News said it could not verify whether or not the retired agent was one of the individuals who accepted the invitation.
"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 two law enforcement officials reportedly told the paper.
That official added: "What is especially upsetting is that these six people received advanced notice of the Buffalo shooting, about 30 minutes before it happened. [Yet] 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."
FBI agents are now reportedly in the process of tracking down the six individuals to interview them and determine if they should be charged as accomplices.
The retired agent in question was not identified by name, and the agency he previously worked for was not disclosed. But federal agents are looking into the agent's relationship to Gendron and investigating whether the agent provided information to the suspect before he carried out his attack.
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