Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
BUFFALO, NY, May 14 (Reuters) – An 18-year-old white gunman shot and killed 10 people and wounded three on Saturday at a grocery store in a black neighborhood in upstate New York, before turning himself in after what authorities called an act of “racially motivated violent extremism.”
Authorities said the suspect, who was armed with an assault-style rifle and appeared to have acted alone, drove to Buffalo from his home several hours away to launch the afternoon attack which he streamed on the social media platform. Twitch, a live video. service owned by Amazon.com (AMZN.O).
Eleven of the 13 people shot were black, authorities said. The other two were white. The racial breakdown of the dead was not made clear.
Court documents named the suspect as Payton Gendron of Conklin, a town of about 5,000 people in southern New York near the Pennsylvania border.
He was arraigned hours after the shooting in state court on first-degree murder charges, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said. New York does not have capital punishment.
Flynn said the judge also ordered Gendron to be held in custody without bond and to undergo a “forensic examination.” Gendron was scheduled to return to court on May 19.
Authorities said the teen, who local media reported had been a student at the State University of New York’s Broome Community College near Binghamton, nearly took his own life before he was arrested.
When officers confronted him in the store, the suspect held a gun to his own neck, but they convinced him to drop the gun and surrender, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a news conference.
Gramaglia said the gunman shot and killed three people in the parking lot of the Tops Friendly Markets store before exchanging gunfire with a retired police officer who worked as the store’s security guard, but the suspect was protected by his bulletproof vest. .
The guard was one of 10 people shot to death, the other nine were all customers. Three other employees at the store, part of a regional chain, were injured but are expected to survive, authorities said.
Tops manager Shonnell Harris told the Buffalo News he thought he heard as many as 70 shots and fell several times while running through the store toward a back exit.
“It looked like he was in the army,” he told the newspaper, describing the assailant dressed in camouflage.
Retired firefighter Katherine Crofton, who lives nearby, said she witnessed the bloodshed begin from her front porch.
“I saw him shoot this woman,” Crofton told the newspaper. “She was walking into the store. And then she shot another woman. She was putting groceries in her car. I got out because I didn’t know if she was going to shoot me.”
Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the Buffalo field office, said the attack would be investigated as a hate crime and an act of “racially motivated violent extremism” under federal law.
“This person was pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said at a news conference, his voice trembling with emotion. “It was a direct racially motivated hate crime from someone outside of our community.”
US President Biden denounced the shooting as “abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation” in a statement issued late on Saturday. “Hate must not have a safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end domestic terrorism fueled by hate.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said at a late-night news conference that she was appalled the killer managed to livestream his attack on social media, which she blamed for harboring a “feeding frenzy.” of violent extremist ideology.
“The fact that that can be posted on a platform is absolutely shocking,” Hochul said. “These outlets need to be more vigilant in monitoring social media content.”
Twitch said in a statement that it took down the live stream less than two minutes after it started and was working to ensure that no other accounts would repost the content. Hochul said that he should have been eliminated “in a second.”
Screenshots of the broadcast were posted on social media, including some that appeared to show the shooter holding a gun and standing over a body in the grocery store.
A document circulating online that appeared to have been written by the killer outlined a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the gun and testing the live stream.
In addition, a 180-page manifesto outlining the ‘Great Replacement Theory’, the idea that whites are being replaced by minorities in the US and other countries, allegedly authored by Gendron, was also circulated online.
A spokesman for Flynn’s office declined to comment on the documents. The FBI could not be immediately reached for comment.
The governor also said she would present a previously planned “full” gun control package on Tuesday to “address more loopholes that exist in our (state) laws.”
Hochul said the firearm used in the murders was legally purchased but had been illegally modified with a high-capacity magazine, which he said could easily have been purchased legally in Pennsylvania.
The Buffalo shooting follows a pattern of other racially motivated mass murders in recent years, including a Pittsburgh synagogue attack that left 11 worshipers dead in October 2018, and the Atlanta spa shootings in March 2021. in which a white man killed eight people, targeting Asians.
Saturday’s shooting was also reminiscent of the attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, when the killer live-streamed the killings on Facebook.
Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown called for unity on what he called a “day of great sorrow for our community.”
“Many of us have been in and out of this supermarket many times,” he told reporters. “We cannot allow this hateful person to divide our community or our country.”
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Pete Schroeder and Moira Warburton in Washington; Edited by Daniel Wallis and William Mallard
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
The Canadian News
Canada’s largets news curation site with over 20+ agency partners