- 13 people were shot, 10 of them fatally, Saturday afternoon at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York.
- The suspected gunman, identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, was charged with first degree murder.
- Law enforcement officers have called the shooting a “racially motivated hate crime”.
A teenage gunman wearing tactical gear opened fire on Saturday in a crowded supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, killing 10 people and injuring three others in the country’s most recent high-profile crime, apparently motivated by hate. say the authorities.
Officials said the suspected gunman, a white 18-year-old male, traveled around New York for several hours to carry out the attack, which he livestreamed on social media. Eleven of the 13 people shot were black, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a news conference.
Government Kathy Hochul called the gunman a “white supremacist” who terrorized New York’s second-largest city in a “cold-hearted,” “military execution” while people ran errands.
“It touches our hearts to know that such evil is lurking,” she said. “This person – this white supremacist – who has just committed a hate crime against an innocent community will spend the rest of his days behind bars. And heaven helps him in the next world too.”
The suspect was carrying an assault weapon with a racial epithet, said Rep. Brian Higgins, citing briefings with law enforcement officers.
“I’ve been on the scene for the past three hours and I’ve listened carefully to what the FBI, the police, the prosecutor 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 taken into custody after the attack. He was charged with first degree murder and appeared in court on Saturday night with a bandage over his shoulder.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said that in addition to the murder charge, his office and federal authorities were pursuing others, from terrorism to hate crimes.
The supermarket is located about three miles north of downtown Buffalo. The area is primarily residential and is surrounded by homes, along with a Family Dollar store, barber shops, a laundromat, and a fire station. Authorities said evidence showed the suspect showed racial hostility, but declined to comment.
Gramaglia said the gunman was wearing tactical gear and armed with an assault rifle. He parked outside the Tops Friendly Market around 2:30 p.m. and opened fire in the parking lot, killing three people and injuring a fourth. He then went in and continued his frenzy, Gramaglia said.
A retired Buffalo police officer, who worked as a security guard at the store, confronted the gunman and shot him. Authorities said the gunman was hit, but his tactical gear prevented injuries.
The gunman returned fire and killed the guard.
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The gunman made his way through the store and fired at others before being met by police near the lobby. According to authorities, the gunman had aimed his weapon at his head and authorities were able to negotiate his surrender.
“This is the worst nightmare that can happen to any community, and we are in pain and we are seething right now,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference. “The deep pain that families feel and that we all feel right now cannot even be explained.”
Buffalo’s attack and the quick determination that the attack was racially motivated drew early parallels to the 2019 attack in El Paso, Texas, where an armed man confessed to traveling hundreds of miles to attack Hispanics at a local Walmart. 23 people were killed in the attack in Texas. In the Buffalo case, a law enforcement official said, investigators are investigating writings allegedly associated with the gunman showing that the attack 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, FBI special agent in charge of the field office in Buffalo.
In the past year, FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly warned about the threat posed by racially motivated violent extremists, telling Congress that such cases make up the “largest part” of the agency’s domestic terrorism investigation. The same group, Wray told a Senate committee last year, was responsible for the deadliest attacks in the past decade.
Authorities say the gunman streamed the attack live on social media. The footage shows the gunman, dressed in military gear, pulling toward the front of the store with a gun in the front seat, then aiming the gun at people in the parking lot as he exited the vehicle and opened fire, a law enforcement officer . told the Associated Press.
It also shows the suspect walking into the supermarket and shooting several other victims, the official said.
“This was pure evil,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia. “It was an outright racial hate crime by someone outside of our community.”
Higgins acknowledged that authorities were reviewing the contents of a graphic manifesto in which the attacker referred to other racially motivated assailants, including Dylann Roof, an outspoken white supremacist, who killed nine people in 2015 at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“This is what all the anecdotal evidence comes down 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 alleged shooter leave and be arrested.
“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like, what the hell is going on? Why does this boy have a gun to his face?’ said Kephart. He fell to his knees. “He tore off his helmet, dropped his gun and was tackled by the police.”
Hochul said the suspect legally obtained 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 police were in the process of determining where the magazines were to be purchased, but noted they could be purchased as far as Pennsylvania. She didn’t elaborate on how many bullets the magazines could hold.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the attack and prayed 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 with everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. Hate and racism have no place in America. We are stunned, extremely angry and pray 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 meet with blacks, Jews and Asia “to underline that the federal government is stepping up its efforts against hate crimes”. He added: “Leaders from all these communities should stand together on this!”
Hochul also expressed the need for changes, noting that the gunman was active online, sharing both his racist views and a live stream of his rage.
“There is a nutritional frenzy on social media platforms where hate breeds even more hate. That has to stop,” she said. These outlets need to be more vigilant when checking social media content.”
Contributions: Diana Dombrowski, Magazine News; The Associated Press.