- 13 people were shot, 10 of them fatally, on Saturday afternoon at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York.
- The alleged shooter, identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, has been arraigned for first-degree murder.
- Law enforcement officials called the shooting a “racially motivated hate crime”.
An armed teenager wearing tactical gear opened fire at a busy supermarket in a predominantly black Buffalo neighborhood on Saturday, killing 10 people and injuring three others in the country’s latest high-profile crime apparently motivated by hate, according to authorities.
Officials said the suspected gunman, an 18-year-old white man, traveled several hours across New York to carry out the attack, which he broadcast live on social media. Eleven of the 13 people who were shot were black, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a news conference.
Governor Kathy Hochul called the gunman a “white supremacist” who terrorized New York’s second-largest city in a “cold-hearted,” “military-style execution” as people bought groceries.
“It strikes us to the bottom of our hearts to know that there is such evil lurking out there,” she said. “This individual – this white supremacist – who has just committed a hate crime against an innocent community, will spend the rest of his life behind bars. And heaven help him in the next world as well.”
The suspect was carrying an assault weapon bearing a racial epithet, Rep. Brian Higgins said, citing briefings with law enforcement officials.
“I was there for the last three hours and listened carefully to what the FBI, the police, the district attorney and the US attorney had to say,” Higgins said. “There is no doubt that this was a racially motivated attack.”
The suspect, identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, a New York community about 200 miles southeast of Buffalo, was arrested after the attack. He was arraigned for first-degree murder and appeared in court on Saturday evening wearing a bandage over his shoulder.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in addition to the murder charge, his office and federal authorities are prosecuting others, from terrorism to hate crimes.
The supermarket is about three miles north of downtown Buffalo. The surrounding area is mostly residential and is surrounded by homes, as well as a Family Dollar store, hair salons, laundromat, and fire station. Authorities said evidence showed the suspect exhibited racial animosity, but declined to give further details.
Gramaglia said the shooter was wearing tactical gear and was armed with an assault rifle. He parked outside the Tops Friendly Market around 2.30pm and opened fire in the parking lot, killing three people and injuring a fourth. He then went inside and continued his rampage, Gramaglia said.
A retired Buffalo police officer, who worked as a security guard at the store, confronted the shooter and shot him. Authorities said the shooter was hit, but his tactical gear prevented him from being injured.
The shooter fired back, killing the guard.
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The shooter made his way through the store, shooting others before being met by law enforcement near the lobby. Authorities said the shooter had his gun pointed at his head and authorities were able to negotiate his surrender.
“This is the worst nightmare any community can face, and we’re hurting and bubbling right now,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference. “The depth of pain the families are feeling and that we are all feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
The Buffalo attack and early determination that the assault was racially motivated drew early parallels to the 2019 attack in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman confessed to traveling hundreds of miles to target Hispanics at a local Walmart. The Texas attack left 23 dead. In the Buffalo case, a law enforcement official said, investigators are looking at paperwork allegedly linked to the shooter indicating the assault was motivated by hate.
“We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism,” said Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office.
Over the past year, FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly warned of the threat posed by racially motivated violent extremists, telling Congress that such cases represent the “biggest chunk” of the bureau’s investigations into domestic terrorism. The same group, Wray told a Senate committee last year, was responsible for the deadliest attacks of the past decade.
Authorities say the shooter broadcast the attack live on social media. Footage shows the shooter, dressed in military gear, stopping at the front of the store with a rifle in the front seat, then pointing the rifle at people in the parking lot as he exited the vehicle and opened the fire, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
It also shows the suspect entering the supermarket and shooting several other victims, the official said.
“It was pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said. “This was a racially motivated hate crime committed by someone outside of our community.”
Higgins acknowledged that authorities were reviewing the content of a graphic manifesto in which the attacker referred to other racially motivated attackers, including Dylann Roof, an outspoken white supremacist, who in 2015 killed nine people at a black church. of Charleston, South Carolina.
“That’s what all the anecdotal evidence adds up to,” Higgins said.
Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, said they had just pulled into the store’s parking lot when they saw the suspected shooter drive off and be arrested.
“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like what’s going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face?” Kephart said. He fell to his knees. “He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun and was tackled by the police.”
Hochul said the suspect legally acquired the rifle used in the attack, but the weapon was modified with illegal magazines. New York prohibits the sale of any magazine with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
She said law enforcement was working to determine where the magazines were acquired, but noted they could be purchased as close to Pennsylvania. She did not specify how many bullets the magazines could hold.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the attack and was praying for those affected, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the shooting “absolutely devastating.”
“Our hearts are with the community and all those affected by this terrible tragedy. Hate and racism have no place in America. We are shocked, extremely angry and praying for the families and loved ones of the victims,” he added in a statement.
Reverend Al Sharpton posted a series of messages on Twitter, calling on the White House to convene a meeting with Black, Jewish and Asian people “to emphasize that the feds are (scaling up) their efforts against hate crimes.” He added that “the leaders of all these communities should unite on this!”
Hochul also expressed the need for changes, noting that the shooter was active online and shared both his racist views and a live broadcast of his rampage.
“There is a feeding frenzy on social media platforms where the hate is escalating more and more. This needs to stop,” she said. These outlets need to be more vigilant in monitoring social media content.”
Contributor: Diana Dombrowski, Newspaper; The Associated Press.