It’s no secret that American law enforcement agencies have a white supremacy problem. You can easily extrapolate that from the number of killings of unarmed Black men by cops or the decades of first-hand experience with police harassment and profiling faced by Blacks and Hispanics all over the country.
But while those lived experiences are very real and valid, the evidence isn’t only anecdotal. The FBI itself has documented the infiltration of law enforcement agencies across the country by people with ties to, or who are actually part of, white supremacist organizations since at least 2006. Reuters reported this month that at least five professional law enforcement trainers who worked across 35 training firms had publicly expressed extreme right wing and white supremacist views.
In most instances, we may never know when we encounter a cop or an agent with racist views unless they make it evident. But now new reporting shows that at least one former federal agent may have played a role in one of the worst acts of racist violence in the country’s recent memory: the Buffalo massacre.
According to the Buffalo News, investigators are now honing in on the alleged killer’s communications through a social media chatroom where racists gathered to share ideas. At least six people were part of that chat, where the suspect reportedly shared his plans at least a half-hour before carrying out the shooting. And one of those six was definitely a retired agent.
From the Buffalo News
Law enforcement officers are investigating whether a retired federal agent had about 30 minutes advance notice of a white supremacist’s plans to murder Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, two law enforcement officials told The Buffalo News.
Authorities believe the former agent – believed to be from Texas – was one of at least six individuals who regularly communicated with accused gunman Payton Gendron in an online chat room where racist hatred was discussed, the two officials said.
The two law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the investigation stated these individuals were invited by Gendron to read about his mass shooting plans and the target location about 30 minutes before Gendron killed 10 people at Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue on May 14.
The News could not determine if the retired agent accepted the invitation.
It’s not clear what investigators mean by “federal agent” in this case; federal law enforcement powers stretch across a range of Alphabet Boy agencies, from the FBI to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to the DEA, ATF, Federal Bureau of Prisons, IRS, U.S. Marshals Service and so forth.
But the danger is clearly obvious: if we already know white supremacists have infiltrated and have embedded themselves in law enforcement agencies around the country, it’s not a leap to think that someone with those views could use their knowledge of weapons, tactics or the law itself, to aid a would-be racist killer. That may not turn out to be the case here, but it’s more than worth a further look, as is the question: how long will it be before it happens again?