Buffalo, NY, May 14 (Reuters) – An 18-year-old white gunman shot and wounded 10 people on Saturday at a grocery store in a black neighborhood in upstate New York before surrendering after what authorities described as an act of violation. Racially motivated violent extremism.
Authorities said the suspect, who was armed with an assault rifle and appeared to act alone, drove to Buffalo from his home several hours away to stage an afternoon attack that was broadcast in real time on social media platform Twitch, a live video. The service is owned by Amazon.com (AMZN.O).
Officials said 11 of the 13 people shot were black. The other two were white. The ethnic division of the dead was not made clear.
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Court papers named the suspect as Payton Gendron of Conklin, a town of about 5,000 people in New York’s Southern tier near the Pennsylvania border.
Hours after the shooting, Erie District Attorney John Flynn said he was summoned in state court on first-degree murder charges, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole. New York does not have the death penalty.
Flynn said the judge also ordered Gendron to remain in custody without bail and to undergo a “forensic examination.” Gendron was scheduled to return to court on May 19.
handed over to the police
Authorities said the young man, who local media reported was a student at SUNY’s Broome Community College near Binghamton, had approached suicide before his arrest.
When confronted by officers at the store, the suspect put a gun to his neck, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Grammaglia said at a news briefing, but they spoke to him to lay down the weapon and surrender.
Grammaglia said the gunman shot and killed three people in the parking lot of the Tops Friendly Markets outlet before exchanging fire with a retired police officer working as a security guard at the store, but that the suspect was protected by body armor.
The guard was one of the 10 people who were shot dead, and the other nine were all customers. Authorities said three other employees of the store, which is part of a regional chain, were infected but were expected to survive.
Shonell Harris, a manager at Tops, told Buffalo News she thought she heard as many as 70 gunshots and that she fell several times as she walked through the store to the back exit.
“He looked like he was in the army,” she told the newspaper, describing the attacker, who was dressed in camouflage clothing.
Retired firefighter Catherine Crofton, who lives nearby, said she watched the bloodshed start from her balcony.
“I saw him shoot this woman,” Crofton told the newspaper. “She was just going to the store. Then he shot another woman. She was putting groceries in her car. I went down because I didn’t know if he was going to shoot me.”
Stephen Bilongia, an FBI special agent in charge of the field office in Buffalo, said the attack would be investigated as a hate crime and as an act of “racially motivated violent extremism” under federal law.
“This guy was totally evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said at a news conference, his voice trembling with emotion. “It was a racially motivated hate crime direct from someone outside our community.”
US President Biden condemned the shooting as “distasteful to the fabric of this nation” in a statement issued late Saturday. “Hate must have no safe haven. We must do everything we can to end hate-fuelled domestic terrorism.”
New York Governor Cathy Hochhol said at a late-evening news conference that she was appalled that the killer was able to livestream his attack on social media, which she blamed on hosting a “feed frenzy” of violent extremist ideology.
“The fact that this can be published on a platform is absolutely shocking,” Hochul said. “These outlets should be more vigilant in monitoring social media content.”
Twitch said in a statement that it removed the live stream less than two minutes after it began and was working to ensure that no other accounts were reposting content. Hochhol said it should have been removed “within a second”.
Footage from the broadcast was posted on social media, including some that appeared to show the shooter carrying a rifle and standing over a corpse in the grocery store.
A document circulating online and apparently written by the killer has written a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the gun and testing the livestream.
In addition, a 180-page manifesto outlining the “Great Replacement Theory” – the idea that whites are being replaced by minorities in the United States and other countries – was also circulated on the Internet, and was written by Gendron.
A spokesman for Flynn’s office declined to comment on the documents. The FBI could not be reached for comment.
The governor also said she will introduce a “comprehensive” gun control package planned in advance on Tuesday to “address further loopholes in our (state) laws.”
Hochhol said the firearm used in the killings was purchased legally but illegally modified with a high-capacity magazine, which she said could have been easily purchased legally in Pennsylvania.
The buffalo shooting follows a pattern of other racially motivated mass murders in recent years, including an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 worshipers in October 2018, and the Atlanta resort shooting in March 2021 in which a white man killed eight people targeting Asians.
Saturday’s spate of shootings is reminiscent of the attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, when the killer broadcast the murders live on Facebook.
Buffalo’s mayor, Bryon Brown, called for unity on what he called “a day of great pain for our community.”
“Many of us have been in and out of this supermarket many times,” he told reporters. We cannot let this hateful person divide our society or our country.”
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(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Pete Schroeder and Moira Warburton in Washington.) Editing by Daniel Wallis and William Mallard
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