PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Investigators have declared Saturday’s supermarket massacre in Buffalo, N.Y. a racially motivated act of extremism.
Of the 13 people shot, 11 of them were Black. Detectives said 18-year-old Payton Gendron posted an 180-page document full of racist ideology prior to live streaming the tragic shooting.
The big question everyone is asking is were there signs leading up to this moment? Experts from the Southern Poverty Law Center told News Channel 8 that many of these “lone wolf shooters” are very active on social media.
“Be aware of their online persona. How invested they are in their pseudonyms and what they’re doing online?” said Michael Edison Hayden with SPLC. “We’ve seen a number of shootings motivated by this kind of white supremacist Great Replacement ideology.”
Hayden said he fears it could get worse and that these racist theories no longer live in obscurity. They’re branching out into the forefront.
“These kinds of things tend to come in bunches and I’m highly concerned about it and I hope people are paying very close attention to people who are only online,” Hayden said. “The fact that there are main stream politicians giving voice to this ideology, figures like Matt Gaetz in Florida for example, who appear to endorse this Great Replacement theory.”
He said the key to slowing down attacks like these is to reach out to a person before they turn into a lone wolf.
“We need to embrace those people with positivity and without condemnation and get to them before they do things like this,” Hayden said.
Mass shootings like this one have many people on edge. ESS Global Corporation and Academy told News Channel 8 there are ways people can prepare for an unsafe situation.
“The bad guys have figured out that a lot of these places that are once deemed safe are easy prey,” said owner Theodore Billiris.
Billiris said situational awareness is key. Everyone should watch what’s going on around them and who the people around them are.
“Understanding what’s going on in the environment around you,” he said. “Understanding what’s the norm. What is the base line for this place.”
If someone is out somewhere and doesn’t feel safe or spot something suspicious, Billiris encouraged people to leave immediately.
“That’s the one thing that can catch people sleeping,” he said. “That sometimes in their mind they’re like ‘well we’re not a group that has enemies.’ It’s not about that. Some of these people don’t necessarily have an enemy as much as they just want to go out and do bad.”