Someone Found The Poway Synagogue Shooter's Manifesto And Called The FBI Minutes Before The Attack Began
"I thought, is this like New Zealand?"
It was just minutes before the shooting when he saw the post.
At 11:05 a.m. on Saturday, Colin, a 25-year-old in Yucaipa, California, logged into 8chan.
It was only his second time ever on the site, he told BuzzFeed News. Someone close to him is a QAnon believer, and after hearing them spout "some really crazy shit," Colin went on the site out of curiosity.
8chan — an online message board full of white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, Trump fanatics, and violent trolls — was where the Christchurch mosque shooter first announced his plans for the attack.
So, when Colin saw a post that reminded him of that, he immediately felt uneasy.
“I can’t remember why, but the picture and the first line of the preview caught my attention," said Colin, who asked that his last name not be used to avoid 8chan trolls. "And I thought, is this like New Zealand?"
He posted an image of the 8chan post timestamped 11:07 a.m. PT — police said the shooter opened fire "just before" 11:30 a.m.
An FBI official told BuzzFeed News they received multiple reports about the post, but the attack happened before they were able to confirm the poster's identity and do something about it.
"Approximately five minutes before the shooting at Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California, the FBI received submissions through its online tip website and tip phone number regarding an anonymous threatening post on a social media site," the official said. "The submissions included a link to the post, but did not offer specific information about the post's author or threat location. Although FBI employees immediately took action to determine the post's author, the shooting occurred before the suspect could be fully identified."
"The FBI thanks the alert citizens who saw and reported the post," the official added.
Upon opening the 8chan post, he found a manifesto that railed against Jews, praised the Christchurch mosque and Pittsburgh synagogue shooters, and said the mass shooting would be livestreamed on Facebook. One line in particular caught Colin's attention — a claim that the poster had set fire to a mosque in Escondido.
"So I highlighted that, searched Google, and the son of a bitch really did do that," Colin said. "That was what made me call the FBI."
Colin said he was hesitant to call the FBI or 911, thinking it might just be a troll — common on 8chan — or false alarm and authorities would just brush him off. Still, he called, and said they "took it really seriously."
“The FBI was great. When I got her on the line, it’s not like talking to a 911 dispatcher," he said. "She was familiar with 4chan and 8chan ... and when I told her about the Escondido thing, she opened up the letter. It was all in like four and a half or five minutes."
Still, there simply wasn't enough time. The shooting began just minutes after he got off the phone with the FBI.
“[The shooter] posted at 11:00, and I called the FBI 1-800 number at exactly 11:15. I was on hold for like three and a half minutes, and then 8chan, the website, they deleted the post at like 11:20," Colin said, and provided BuzzFeed News with a screengrab showing he made the call. "So the damn thing was only up for 20 minutes before the administrators of the site took it down, while I was on the phone with the FBI, and then I knew for sure it must be legit.”
8chan has denied responsibility for their association with the shooter, instead trying to pivot the blame to the "fake-news media."
"The Poway shooter's post on 8chan was taken down NINE minutes after creation. There are only screencaps available and no archives exist since the post was deleted so quickly," the site tweeted the morning after the attack. "The loudest groups publicizing this crime and giving attention to this CRIMINAL are the fake-news media."
Colin thinks it's no coincidence that the post was up for such a short time.
"I guarantee the shooter didn’t post that until he was already in his car on his way down there," he said. "They know it’s too small of a window — that’s why he used his real name. It didn’t matter, they weren’t going to get to him.”
Now, Colin said he's rethinking his views on the First Amendment as it applies to the web.
“I used to think the First Amendment applied entirely to the internet," he said. "And now, I realize that the First Amendment is about the government putting you in a cage or killing you for what you say."
"I think these websites should be more heavily regulated," he added. "There should be a real-time way for the government to get your information."
"Once you have attack after attack after attack, how much are you going to put up with?” he said.