Motion would allow family of Buffalo mass shooting victims to see Gendron’s online activity

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A motion filed in U.S. District Court seeks to allow the family of the victims in the Buffalo Tops mass shooting to see the cell phone records and internet search history of Payton Gendron before he killed their loved ones.

Gendron is the man who pleaded guilty in state court to killing ten Black people in an act of hate on May 14. The motion would allow the families to review Gendron’s online activity. Investigators have about 2.8 terabytes of “forensic images” from Gendron’s online activity before the shooting fueled by online racist conspiracy theories.

The attorneys for Gendron filed the motion on Friday. The families and their lawyers are allowed to view the information but only in the presence of Gendron’s lawyers and they are prohibited from taking any notes. The court filing says those restrictions make it nearly impossible to effectively review the data they want to see.

“The purpose of this modest modification is to permit the victims, through their counsel, to retain copies of certain limited, non-sensitive discovery material described herein, which counsel have indicated is potentially critical to civil litigation they are contemplating on behalf of the victims,” the motion says. “Importantly, the victims and/or their counsel are already permitted to review all the discovery provided to the defense team, under the terms of the existing Protective Order Governing Discovery.”

In a footnote on page 5 of the court document, it says the U.S. attorney’s office has denied families greater access to this material.

“Upon information and belief, the government has rejected a request from the victims’ legal counsel to
provide them with greater access to the social media data contained in the discovery material,” says the footnote.

News10NBC has asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York to explain why the office has not granted greater access to the families. The office says: “We cannot comment on a pending case.”

Gendron, 19, was sentenced to life in prison without parole on February 15. He wore bullet-resistant armor and a helmet equipped with a livestreaming camera as he carried out the shooting with a semiautomatic rifle he purchased legally. He modified the rifle so he could load it with illegal high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Gendron also faces separate federal charges that could carry a death sentence if the U.S. Justice Department chooses to seek it. His defense attorney said in December that Gendron is prepared to plead guilty in federal court as well to avoid execution.