The white gunman accused of racist rampage at a Buffalo supermarket planned to continue killing if he escaped, the police commissioner said Monday, as authorities investigate the killing of black people as a potential hate crime or an act of domestic terrorism.
The shooter, who had traveled across the state to target Tops Friendly Market, where he killed 10 people, had also spoken of shooting at another store, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told CNN.
“He was going to get in his car and keep going down Jefferson Avenue and keep doing the same thing,” the commissioner said.
His description was similar to parts of a 180-page racist document, allegedly written by Payton Gendron, which said the assault was intended to terrorize all non-whites and non-Christians into leaving the country. Federal authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of the document.
Saturday’s bloodshed in Buffalo was the deadliest in a spate of weekend shootings, including at a California church and a Texas flea market.
Gendron, 18, traveled about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from his home in Conklin, New York, to Buffalo to carry out the attack, police said.
Law enforcement officials revealed Sunday that New York State Police troopers were called to Gendron High School last June for a report that the 17-year-old had made threatening statements.
The revelation raised questions about whether his encounter with police and the mental health system was another missed opportunity to subject a would-be mass shooter to further scrutiny by law enforcement, to ask him to leave. help or to ensure that he did not have access to firearms.
Gendron had threatened to shoot at Susquehanna Valley High School in Conklin around graduation, a law enforcement official said on condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Gramaglia said Gendron had no further contact with law enforcement after a mental health evaluation that took him to the hospital for a day and a half.
“Nobody called. Nobody called with a complaint,” Gramaglia said. The threat was “general” in nature, he said, and was not race-related.
New York is one of many states that have enacted “red flag” laws in recent years in an attempt to prevent mass shootings by identifying people who show signs they might pose a threat to themselves or for the others.
These laws allow law enforcement, a person’s family, or, in some cases, medical professionals or school officials to ask the courts to temporarily seize the person’s weapons or restrain them from buy weapons.
Federal law prohibits people from owning firearms if a judge has determined they have a “mental defect” or were forcibly placed in a mental institution. A rating alone would not trigger the ban.
It’s unclear whether officials could have invoked the “red flag” rule after the high school incident. Police and prosecutors did not provide details of the incident or say when Gendron purchased the weapons used in the deadly attack.