As Payton Gendron planned a massacre, he wrote that he had one friend in life, his “buddy Matt.”
That’s how Gendron, in his log, often refers to Matthew J. Casado, 19, who had been a schoolmate for years in Conklin.
Gendron said he showed Casado the assault rifle purchased for the slaughter in Buffalo.
“Went to friend Matt’s house today, showed him my illegal XM-15 and he said he liked it,” Gendron wrote on Feb. 11. “We talked and hung out for about 2 and a half hours.”
On Jan. 2 Gendron wrote that he showed Matt another weapon he intended to bring to Buffalo, a Mossberg 500 shotgun.
Gendron’s log further reveals that over the weeks and months leading up to the attack, Casado fired the Bushmaster XM-15; Gendron would have felt comfortable doing armed “exercises” with him; and Gendron revealed to his friend that he’d had suicidal thoughts.
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There is no sign Gendron told his friend he planned to slaughter Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, or was out to kill anyone. Nor is there any sign in Gendron’s log that Casado questioned him about his need for new weapons and ammunition, or that Casado expressed concern when considering Gendron’s suicidal idea.
In interviews with reporters immediately after the shooting, Casado identified himself as one of Gendron’s few friends, if not his only friend. Casado expressed surprise that Gendron held the extreme racist beliefs that fueled his plot, and pointed out to reporters that he is partly Hispanic and he dates a Black woman.
Casado’s mother, Pamela Burdock, told reporters she knew Gendron like a son and couldn’t square the person she knew with the one now indicted in the rampage. Neither Casado nor his mother responded to messages seeking comment for this article.
“Matt and Payton were best friends,” Tim Baker, a neighbor in the mobile home park where Casado and his mother reside, told the Daily Mail. Baker went on to say he watched state police take items from Casado’s home shortly after the Buffalo Massacre. Among the items taken was ammunition. Casado reportedly called police to tell them Gendron had left some ammunition at his home the day before the shooting spree.
The Broome County district attorney, Michael Korchak, has been assisting in the investigation into the crime that occurred 200 miles to the west and recently said he wishes someone had learned of Gendron’s plot and dissuaded him.
“You just wish that he had some friends or someone who would be able to discourage him from this kind of conduct,” Korchak said. When The Buffalo News asked about Casado, Korchak said state police and the FBI were interviewing anyone who had access to Gendron in the run-up to May 14.
“We are exploring every avenue to see what led up to the event,” Korchak said.
“I believe that law enforcement should take a good look at Matt,” said John V. Elmore, a Buffalo attorney who represents the estate of Andre Mackniel, one of the 10 people killed at the Tops Markets on May 14. Mackniel’s last act was to go buy a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son.
Elmore, a former prosecutor, said police should ask what Casado knew and whether he made any overt act that helped Gendron’s plans.
Much of what is known about the Gendron-Casado friendship comes from the lengthy diary, or log, Gendron maintained as he planned a mass shooting. He published it to a private online chat room on discord.com, a messaging site, shortly before the rampage.
Gendron then livestreamed the attack, and the video reveals his face, as well as the rifle, which has markings on it identical to the rifle he photographed for the diary. He remains in the Erie County Holding Center on a charge of first-degree murder.
Gendron, in his log, and Casado, in comments to reporters, say they met in elementary school: “Matt has been my friend ever since third grade. We talk some nowadays and I would consider him my only friend,” Gendron wrote.
Both graduated from Susquehanna Valley High School in June 2021. Casado attended a career and technical education program at Broome-Tioga BOCES and at graduation earned a local award, the Triple Cities Street Club Award, after being nominated by his autobody teacher, a school district spokesman said. Casado now works for Williams Toyota of Binghamton, where a person who took a message for him said he should not be blamed for Gendron’s actions.
Gendron’s log indicates he and Casado shared an interest in guns. Casado, Gendron wrote, was among the first to see his new Mossberg 500 shotgun, which was purchased in December. And 19 days after purchasing the Bushmaster XM-15 rifle at Vintage Firearms in nearby Endicott, Gendron showed Casado the assault rifle, the log says. The rifle was used to target Black shoppers at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue months later.
While the weapon was technically legal to own in New York, Gendron would soon modify it to allow a high-capacity magazine that let him fire more rounds without reloading and was prohibited by state law. Gendron acknowledged in his log: “The NY safe act didn’t prevent me from buying an ‘assault rifle’ legally and acquiring high-capacity magazines.”
He wrote that he would feel safer during his killing spree because anyone with a concealed-carry weapon would lack the same firepower.
“If the civilians I will be killing had guns that weren’t limited, I would be much more afraid than I currently am,” he.
Gendron’s log says he showed the “illegal” weapon to Casado on Feb. 11. They made plans to go and “shoot some more” the following day.
On March 6, Gendron wrote, he and Casado went to a flea market, where Gendron bought more ammunition, though there is no sign he shared his criminal plan with his friend.
“I had a fun time with Matt,” the log says. “It was a nice break from preparing for the attack.”
For March 18, Gendron wrote that he fired the weapon at the state forest to test the full ammunition magazines and “all worked great.” He went on to say that he would put different springs into the magazines the next day and added: “I think I’ll go with Matt and do some exercises.”
But there was no mention of Casado when Gendron wrote of his activities for March 19: “Was shooting all of today, all mags worked great, no issues after 135 rounds shot. Then I spent an hour cleaning all but the barrel.”
As his preparations to kill innocent people intensified, Gendron wrote that he intended to buy new eye protection and ear protection and give the old protection to Casado. The two friends celebrated Casado’s birthday together on March 25 and played a card game on March 30, the log says. On March 31 the log makes one of its last mentions of Casado.
Gendron had already written that he might be mentally ill and has had suicidal thoughts. For example, he wrote in December that he “once told Matt about being suicidal at some points in my life.”
On March 31, Gendron wrote, “I was going to kill myself sometime in December I think.” He added: “I remember I went up to Matt’s house one day and I thought ‘he doesn’t know this is the last time he’s going to see me alive.’ ”