A federal grand jury returned an indictment Thursday charging the suspected Buffalo, New York, mass shooter with federal hate crimes.
The indictment starts the clock for Attorney General Merrick Garland to consider the death penalty.
Payton Gendron, then 18, is accused of storming a Tops grocery store on May 14 and shooting dead 10 people, all black, in an alleged hate crime.
At one point, Gendron allegedly pointed his Bushmaster XM rifle at a White Tops employee, who was shot in the leg and injured, Garland told reporters last month. Gendron allegedly apologized to her before continuing the attack, Garland said.
Gendron is accused of planning the massacre for months, including going to the store to sketch the layout and count the number of black people present, Garland said.
The federal hate crime charges were announced last month. Gendron will now be arraigned on the indictment, during which he will enter his plea and the prosecution will be able to formally set hearing and trial dates.
The 27-count indictment charges Gendron, now 19, with 14 violations of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.: “10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill three injured individuals, and a hate crime account alleging that Gendron attempted to kill other black people in and around Tops’ grocery store,” according to a Department of Justice statement. He is also charged with 13 firearms offences.
Gendron was allegedly motivated by a far-right, racist conspiracy known as the Replacement Theory and he wanted to “inspire others to carry out similar attacks”, according to a criminal complaint. Markings on the rifle used in the shooting, including the phrases “here are your repairs” and “the big replacement,” the complaint states.
Garland said in a statement Thursday, “We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to fight hate crimes, to support communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who commit them.”
The Justice Department said in a statement: “The Attorney General will decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later date. If the Attorney General determines that the circumstances of the offense are such that a death sentence is warranted, the law requires that notice be filed with the court within a reasonable time before trial. »
The indictment comes a day before the Tops store plans to reopen to the public.