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Monday, January 30, 2023

The Buffalo Attack: The Cumulative Momentum of Far-Right Terror

Counterterrorism practitioners can only fully understand the attack if considered within this wider cumulative momentum of extreme-right transnational violence.

Since the deadly terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019, there has been a chain reaction of extreme right-wing violence targeting religious and ethnic minorities. On May 14, 2022, 18-year-old Payton Gendron allegedly murdered 10 people in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history. This article examines the Buffalo terrorist atrocity, its perpetrator, his pathway to violence as well as the techniques, tactics, and practices that underpinned his attack, which counterterrorism practitioners can only fully understand if considered within this wider cumulative momentum of extreme-right transnational violence.

On the afternoon of Saturday, May 14, 2022, an 18-year-old committed one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The alleged gunman, Payton Gendron, killed 10 African-Americans and wounded three with a rifle at a Tops Friendly Markets. The shooter was wearing military gear and a helmet with a GoPro Hero 7 camera attached. After exiting his car, the gunman shot four people outside of the store, three fatally. Upon the gunman’s entry into the store, a security guard fired multiple shots at him, but they did not have an effect on his bulletproof armor. The perpetrator then killed the security guard before shooting other victims throughout the store. In total, 11 of those he shot were Black and two were white. All 10 who lost their lives were Black. Once the police arrived, the gunman put the rifle to his neck and appeared to be about to commit suicide, but the police talked him into dropping his gun before arresting him.

The weapon in the shooting was a second-hand Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle that was purchased from a licensed dealer and then illegally modified so that high-capacity magazines could be loaded into it. In the months before the attack, Gendron used a private Discord server as a personal diary chat log to document his attack planning. In the chat log, Gendron noted that he had two backup weapons—a legally purchased shotgun and another rifle. He also explained how he planned to deliberately load heavier rounds to penetrate the glass at the front of the supermarket before loading lighter rounds to target shoppers.

Read more at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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