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Ten dead in alleged racially motivated shooting at Buffalo supermarket

Tops on Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo
Emyle Watkins
/
WBFO News
Police were on the scene Saturday, May 14 at the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, where a gunman opened fire on members of the public.

Thirteen people were shot, ten of them fatally, by a gunman who entered the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo Saturday and opened fire. Investigators say he traveled from elsewhere in New York State, motivated by racial hatred, and identified his target as being in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

"This is the worst nightmare that any community can face. And we are hurting. And we are seething right now as a community," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. "The depth of pain that families are feeling, and that all of us are feeling right now, cannot even be explained."

The alleged shooter was identified at his Saturday evening arraignment as 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, a community located a short distance southeast of Binghamton near the Pennsylvania border. He entered a plea of not guilty to First Degree Murder and was held without bail. His next scheduled court appearance is Tuesday, May 17.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the suspect arrived at the supermarket dressed in tactical gear and shot his first four victims, three of them fatally, before entering the store to continue the violence which left seven more dead. Among those he encountered inside was the store's security guard, a retired Buffalo police officer, according to authorities.

"At approximately 2:30 today, an individual whom the mayor stated is not from this area and is from hours away, drove to Buffalo," he said. "Once at 1275 Jefferson Avenue, to the Tops market, he exited his vehicle. He was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear. He had a tactical helmet on. He had a camera that he was live streaming what he was doing."

AUDIO: Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia details the sequence of events in Saturday afternoon's mass shooting on Jefferson Avenue.

Social media accounts are suggesting the alleged shooter released a manifesto and "to-do" list prior to the attack. His Twitch account, on which the attack was reportedly broadcast live, has since been shut down. According to the alleged manifesto, which was acquired by WBFO but is not being linked here, the suspect targeted Blacks, motivated by the belief that he was responding to a campaign to "replace" the White race. His alleged manifesto also expressed hatred toward Jews, and suggests "Arabs," Asians and other non-white individuals do not belong in a "White civilization."

"The FBI is working this case jointly with our partners with the Buffalo PD and our other federal, state and local partners. We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism," said FBI Special Agent In Charge Stephen Belongia. "Hate Crimes fall within the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division and racially motivated violent extremism cases fall within the FBI's Counterterrorism Division within our Domestic Terrorism section. The FBI is providing all necessary resources, both locally and nationally, to investigate this matter. We will not stop until every lead is investigated, every piece of evidence is analyzed, and until we understand how and why this horrible tragedy and crime occurred, our thoughts and our prayers are with the family and the victims who died today."

AUDIO: FBI Special Agent In Charge Stephen Belongia and United States Attorney Trini Ross
FBI Special Agent In Charge Stephen Belongia and United States Attorney Trini Ross discuss investigating and prosecuting Saturday's mass shooting as a racially motivated hate crime.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said his office will also factor race as a motive in the killings.

"There's also a second subsection of Murder in the First Degree that has a racial component to it. Obviously, we will investigate that further," he said. "I want to make sure right now though, when I arraign him tonight, my clock is ticking as far as my felony hearing hearing date, which will be five days from now. So I want to make sure that I have the best charge right now to hold him in custody and get this matter moving forward before I add any other charges on it. But I can and if those charges are applicable, which I think they may be, they will be added on."

Flynn says under New York State law, the most severe punishment the suspect could face if convicted is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Governor Kathy Hochul spoke in Buffalo early Saturday evening, denouncing white supremacy and its alleged influence on the attack.

"I know the individuals who live here, the wonderful tight-knit neighborhood, and to see that sense of security shattered by an individual, a white supremacist who has engaged in an act of terrorism, and will be prosecuted as such, in a cold hearted, cruel, calculating way, a military style execution targeting people who simply want to buy groceries in a neighborhood store... it strikes us in our very hearts to know that there's such evil that lurks out there," she said. "Yes, I'm here to console the families in a community that is feeling so much pain right now. But mark my words, we'll be aggressive in our pursuit of anyone who subscribes to the ideals professed by other white supremacists and how there's a feeding frenzy on social media platforms, where hate festers more hate. That has to stop.

"These outlets must be more vigilant in monitoring social media content. And certainly, the fact that this act of barbarism, this execution of innocent human beings, can be live streamed on social media platforms, and not taken down within a second says to me, that there is a responsibility out there. And we're going to continue to work on this, and make sure that those who provide these platforms have a moral and ethical - and I hope to have a legal responsibility - to ensure that such hate cannot populate these sites. Because this is the result when you have individuals who use these platforms, and talk to others who share these demented views, and support each other, and talk about the techniques that they'll engage in, and post these ideas and share them with others in the hope that they can all someday rise up in their demented view of the world. That's what white supremacist terrorism is all about. That's what we witnessed here today on the streets of Buffalo, New York. And it has to end right here."

Reactions from elected representatives included that of New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

State Senator Tim Kennedy released a statement indicating one of the survivors is a family member of one of his own employees: "Tonight, a member of my staff, my extended family, is at ECMC when she should be at home. She’s sitting in a hospital waiting room, because her beautiful, extraordinary son was shot while he was simply doing his job. To say that I’m heartbroken tonight doesn’t even do it justice. I’m devastated. I’m angry. And I’m thinking about the families who won’t welcome a loved one home tonight. All because an individual filled with pure evil made a calculated decision to senselessly take innocent lives. Let us be clear: this was a hate crime and an act of terrorism on our community. It was racially motivated, extremism in its most pure form. Although we may feel speechless, we will not remain silent. These victims and the families of these victims will see justice. While we grieve tonight, we will get through this together. I ask that you keep the families of those lost and injured in your prayers."

State Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, from North Tonawanda, issued the following written statement: "The tragic shooting that occurred in a Buffalo supermarket Saturday afternoon is heartbreaking for our community and people all across the state and country. My wife and I are praying for the victims and their families. I want to thank the Buffalo Police Department and Emergency Medical Services for quick action in detaining the suspect and aiding the injured. New Yorkers stand together in condemning this despicable violence."

Reactions from the community included that from the National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York.

Wegmans, a competitor of Tops in Western New York, forwarded its concerns and expressed its sympathies for those affected by Saturday's events. The company also announced it would close all Buffalo-area stores at 9 p.m. Saturday and reopen 6 a.m. Sunday, so that their own employees could "process this heartbreaking event with their families."