Law enforcement is tracking calls for Buffalo-inspired attacks on Juneteenth
Law enforcement is tracking online calls for violent attacks targeting Juneteenth events and inspired by the Buffalo, N.Y., shooting, according to intelligence bulletins obtained by Yahoo News.
The bulletins detail several posts widely circulated in white supremacist online forums calling for attacks on events related to the June 19 federal holiday, which celebrates the end of slavery. The posts, according to the bulletins, encourage attacks inspired by 18-year-old Payton Gendron, the white suspect accused of killing 10 Black people at a Buffalo grocery store last month.
“In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a supermarket in a Buffalo, New York, members of WRMVE [white racially motivated violent extremist] Telegram channels, particularly those affiliated with the Terrorgram network, have celebrated Payton Gendron ... and encouraged similar attacks targeting black communities,” according to an intelligence note produced by Central Florida Intelligence Exchange.
The bulletin was circulated by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, part of the Department of Defense. It includes screenshots of posts that include selfies of the Buffalo suspect, noting that his birthday is June 20. The agency did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News.
“While we are not aware of any specific, credible threats in our [area of responsibility] related to this threat, we remain concerned about unaffiliated lone offenders and WRMVEs, who may be inspired by Gendron and/or other WRMVE attackers, due to their ability to remain undetected until operational,” the bulletin says.
Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security similarly warned police nationwide that the Buffalo attack is likely to drive heightened threats from white supremacists in the near term, according to a June 13 DHS bulletin obtained by Yahoo News.
“We assess that reactions to the [May 14] attack in Buffalo, New York, from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) who believe in the superiority of the white race likely will drive a heightened threat to traditional RMVE targets — including African American and other minority communities — in the coming months,” the DHS bulletin states.
Online calls for follow-up attacks have circulated in the weeks since the Buffalo shooting, DHS said. “Attackers have often drawn inspiration from previous successful attackers and typically mobilize as lone offenders, limiting law enforcement’s and bystanders’ insights into their plans,” the bulletin says.
A DHS spokesperson told Yahoo News that the agency has “enhanced operational collaboration with partners across every level of government, including by sharing timely and actionable information and intelligence regarding the threat environment to protect communities across our country.”
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco discussed the Buffalo shooting and the threat posed by white supremacists during a domestic violent extremist summit hosted by the Anti-Defamation League and the McCain Institute on June 13, the same day DHS issued the bulletin warning.
“The intelligence community has assessed that the most lethal domestic terrorism threat is posed by racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and by militia violent extremists,” Monaco said. “We continue to be in that elevated threat environment.”
On June 15, the Buffalo shooting suspect was charged with 26 counts of federal hate crimes and firearms offenses, the Justice Department announced earlier this week.
“We fully recognize the threat that hatred and violent extremism pose to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “We will be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.”