John Normile/Getty Images
A gunman, dressed in military-style clothing and body armor, opened fire with a rifle at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, killing 10 people in a shooting that officials are investigating as a racially motivated hate crime.
The alleged gunman, who livestreamed the attack online, was charged with first-degree murder hours after he was taken into custody, law enforcement officials said.
A total of 13 people were shot in the Tops Friendly Market on Saturday afternoon, officials said at a news conference. Of the 13 victims, four were store employees, including a security guard, and the rest were customers. Eleven of the victims were black and two were white, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.
“It was outright a racially motivated hate crime,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia. “This was pure evil.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the gunman a “white supremacist guilty of an act of terrorism.”
An Erie County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson named the suspect 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron, who is white. He is from Conklin, NY, a community southeast of Binghamton, more than 3 hours from Buffalo.
If convicted, a charge of first degree murder carries a life sentence without parole, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said at a briefing Saturday night.
The suspect pleaded not guilty and was held without bail. He is due to appear in court on Thursday.
Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the Buffalo field office, said the agency is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and “a case of racially motivated violent extremism.” Federal authorities are also investigating possible allegations of terrorism.
How the attack unfolded
The shooting began at 2:30 p.m. GMT outside the grocery store, which is located in a predominantly black neighborhood about 3 miles north of downtown Buffalo.
The gunman opened fire with an assault rifle and shot four people in the parking lot, law enforcement officials said. Three of those people died.
After the gunman broke into the store, the guard, a retired police officer, confronted the gunman. The suspect then shot and killed the guard.
The suspect was later approached by police at the front of the store. He briefly held a gun to his neck, but police said they persuaded him to drop his guns and surrender.
A racist screed posted online describes the plan of attack
A screed, written by someone who used the same name as the shooter, contained a plan for the attack. Posted to the anonymous 4chan bulletin board, an author identifying himself as Payton Gendron says “extreme boredom” during the pandemic led to his radicalization on 4chan.
Filled with racist diatribes, the 180-page document appears to embrace the “great replacement” white supremacist conspiracy theory that claims an elite cabal of Jews, business leaders and politicians is deliberately diluting the white population through permissive immigration and promoting diversity.
The same hateful conspiracy theory was championed by the gunman who committed the 2019 massacre of 51 people in New Zealand mosques. The author of the document calls the New Zealand gunman his greatest source of inspiration.
The author of the document claims to be a student at Broome Community College at the State University of New York. The college said in a statement to NPR that he is not currently enrolled in the school.
The attack was livestreamed online
The gunman livestreamed the incident on the Twitch platform, a company spokeswoman said. Twitch said the stream was taken offline less than two minutes after the violence began and has indefinitely suspended the user from the service.
In comments after the shooting, Hochul said social media companies bear some responsibility when extremists use their platforms to amplify violence.
“The social media platforms that take advantage of their existence should be responsible for oversight and oversight, knowing that in some sense they could be complicit in a crime like this, perhaps not legally but morally,” the governor said.
Under federal law, online platforms have a legal shield to be held accountable for what users post. However, there are exceptions, such as when content violates federal criminal laws.
The streaming platform did not say how many viewers the live stream received during the short time it was available, but the company said it monitors the platform for restreams of parts of the graphics, which violates the rules against streaming violence.
“We are devastated to learn of the shooting that occurred this afternoon in Buffalo, New York. Our hearts go out to the community affected by this tragedy,” said Twitch spokeswoman Samantha Faught.
The Biden Administration Responds
The White House said President Biden had been made aware of the shooting and will continue to receive updates.
“Tonight we mourn the families of 10 people whose lives have been taken meaninglessly and all who suffer the physical and emotional wounds of this horrific shooting,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday.
The president said the investigation into the attacker’s motivation is still ongoing, but said a racially motivated hate crime “is abhorrent to the fabric of this nation. Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act committed in the name of a “abhorrent white nationalist ideology, is at odds with everything we stand for in America. Hate must not have a safe haven. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fuelled domestic terrorism.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the FBI and ATF are working closely with the Buffalo Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
“The Justice Department is investigating this case as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” Garland said in a statement. “The Justice Department is committed to a thorough and prompt investigation into this shooting and to seek justice for these innocent victims.”
Speaking with NPRs All togetherBuffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the investigation is ongoing and many in Buffalo are grieving.
Collectively, our community is heartbroken and in pain right now,” he said. “I know some of the victims and some of the families involved. A lot of people in our community are affected in one way or another by this.”
NPR’s Odette Yousef and member broadcaster WBFO contributed coverage.