BUFFALO, N.Y. — A Buffalo man has been arrested for allegedly tweeting threats to kill Black people at Buffalo grocery stores.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York announced on Thursday that Rolik Walker, 24, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with making an interstate threat.
After appearing in Federal court on Thursday, Walker was given a conditional release.
If Walker is found guilty, the charge has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
There was no answer at the Edison Street home where agents say he lives. His court-appointed attorney also had no comment at this point.
The prosecutors handling the case said that according to a criminal complaint, Walker allegedly created the Twitter account "@ConklinHero" that then was used to "post that he and his 'associates' were targeting several grocery stores in Buffalo and suburban communities including Amherst, Cheektowaga and Tonawanda, and they were 'only looking to kill Blacks.' "
The accused Tops shooter is from Conklin. The Twitter account was allegedly created two days after the shooting which took the lives of 10 people, injured others, and traumatized the Western New York community.
Attorney Barry Covert of Lipsitz, Green, Scime, Cambria LLP told 2 On Your Side, "Because he posted tweets, and those tweets when you post them apparently travel all the way to California, where Twitter is, and then back to New York, because of that traveling of the tweets, it passes through interstate commerce, and he is facing a federal felony offense."
Walker allegedly attempted to make the posts anonymous by using an app on his phone to mask his IP address.
In the criminal complaint against him, agents says Walker told them he made the posting to see how segregated social media is and saw it spread within 30 seconds.
They say Walker also told them he did not know it was a crime but had tried to mask his online identity and was sleeping in his car for several days expecting the FBI to show up.
Walker also claimed he tried to revise the tweet, mentioning killing insects instead, and then deleted the Conklin Hero Twitter account.
2 On Your Side also asked Covert if he felt it was possible the case could be elevated considering the tragic nature of the May 14 mass shooting.
"It could certainly be elevated," Covert said. "This could be the initial criminal complaint, and that brings him into the court system. They have to look at whether the grand jury could have enough information before it to charge hate crimes or other crimes beyond the crime that they have set forth."
FBI Buffalo Office Special Agent in Charge Stephen Belongia further stated: "What happened on May 14 continues to strike at the heart of this community. We want to remind everyone, the FBI takes all threats seriously and works closely with our law enforcement partners to determine whether they are credible. As always, we reiterate to members of the public that if they observe something suspicious to contact law enforcement immediately."