‘Heinous’ shooting in Buffalo being investigated as hate crime, extremism after 10 killed: Latest updates

‘Heinous’ shooting in Buffalo being investigated as hate crime, extremism after 10 killed: Latest updates

Published May 15, 2022
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BUFFALO — Vigils and prayers services were being held across the city Sunday after authorities said a teenage gunman, wearing tactical gear and a livestreaming camera, killed 10 people and wounded three more in a hate-fueled shooting rampage at a busy supermarket.

Eleven of the 13 people who were shot were Black, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. The suspect, who was taken into custody at the scene, is white. The FBI is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and racially-motivated violent extremism. 

Voice Buffalo and other equity advocacy groups organized a vigil near the shooting scene that drew a crowd of hundreds Sunday morning. Among the speakers was the Rev. Mark Blue, president of the Buffalo NAACP, who called for unity among residents of all races.

Blue said everyone must “continue to support those who have been victimized by this heinous act” of racism.

“Too much hurt is in our community,” Blue said. “We are only stronger when we are together.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke Sunday morning at a service at True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo, saying Saturday’s attack “was not a random act of violence.”

We must “silence the voices of hatred and white supremacy all over the internet,” Hochul said.

“This is in a league of it’s own … a whole new dimension,” she said. “I want to silence those voices now, I want them to talk about Buffalo as the last place this ever happened, we will let this end right here.”

WHAT WE KNOW:10 dead, 3 injured in Buffalo store shooting

Here’s what we know:

The suspect, identified by authorities as Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York, traveled several hours across the state to carry out the attack, authorities said.

“It seems that he had come here to scope out the area, to do a little reconnaissance work on the area before he carried out his just evil, sickening act,” Gramaglia said.

Gramaglia, with Buffalo police, said Gendron was armed with an assault-style rifle and arrived at the Tops Friendly Markets around 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Four people were shot in the parking lot, three of whom died at the scene. After Gendron entered the store, “he began engaging customers inside,” Gramaglia said.

The suspect was wearing a camera and livestreaming. The online platform Twitch said in a statement that it ended the livestream “less than two minutes after the violence started.” 

Jennifer Tooke said she was walking through the store when she heard gunshots.

“I ran through the deli and ran out the back door to get away from him,” she said. “When I came out here I just (saw) bodies laying in front of the store.”

BUFFALO SHOOTING:Gov. Kathy Hochul blames ‘white supremacist’

She circled back to the parking lot, where she saw several bodies on the ground in front of the store. She retrieved her phone from her car and called her cousin, who was also inside the store when gunfire erupted. Her cousin hid in a freezer and was not injured, she said. The pair reconnected outside.

“It was scary,” Tookes said, adding that the store was crowded at the time and that others ran out the back door as well. “A lot of people got away, thank God.”

She said she didn’t see the shooter, but when she heard the shots she “just started running.”

Federal agents interviewed Gendron’s parents and were working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page manifesto that was posted online, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sunday. The manifesto detailed the plot and identified Gendron by name as the gunman, the official said. Authorities say the shooting was motivated by racial hatred.

Gendron’s parents were cooperating with investigators, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the investigation into the Saturday afternoon shooting publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the devastating scenario has rattled federal, state and local law enforcement officials who also studied the racially motivated extremists who brought carnage to Charleston, El Paso, Pittsburgh and Charlottesville. The details emerging from the Buffalo attack are as stunning as they were familiar: A lone gunman, allegedly driven by long-simmering racial animus, opening fire with the apparent purpose of taking Black lives.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, in testimony last year before a Senate committee, offered perhaps the most daunting assessment yet of an increasingly toxic threat, saying that racially motivated attackers represented the most lethal and “biggest chunk” of an estimated 2,000 open domestic terror investigations across the country.

President Joe Biden on Sunday urged Americans to “work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America.” Biden, speaking at a tribute outside the U.S. Capitol for the 563 police officers killed in duty the past year, said he’s been receiving updates on the Buffalo shooting and is in close contact with the Justice Department.

“Already the Justice Department has stated publicly that it is investigating the matter as a hate crime, a racially motivated act of white supremacy and violent extremism,” Biden said. “As they do, we must all work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of  America. Our hearts are heavy once again, but our resolve must never, ever waver.”

He said he has not yet spoken with family members of the victims, who were primarily Black. The grocery store is located in a predominantly African American neighborhood of Buffalo.

“Jill and I, like all of you, pray for the victims and their families and a devastated community,” he said. “They were pulled as if you got pulled into a black hole in your chest, and there’s no way out. Jill and I know. We know no memorial, no gestures can fill the void in the hearts they have now.”

Vice President Kamala Harris decried the “epidemic of hate across our country that has been evidenced by acts of violence and intolerance.  We must call it out and condemn it.”

A retired Buffalo police officer identified by authorities as Aaron Salter working in the store as a security guard confronted the shooter and shot him. Those bullets struck the attacker’s tactical vest, preventing injury, Gramaglia said. The gunman returned fire and Salter was fatally shot

The shooter “worked his way through the store” firing at others, and in the store’s lobby was confronted by Buffalo police, police said. The suspect pointed his own gun at his neck and police convinced him to drop the gun and surrender.

Authorities say the suspect live-streamed the attack on social media. Footage shows the gunman, dressed in military gear, pulling up to the front of the store with a rifle on the front seat, then pointing the rifle at people in the parking lot as he exited the vehicle, opened fire and entered the store.

Salter was “a hero in our eyes,” Gramaglia said.

Hochul called the gunman a “white supremacist” who terrorized New York’s second-largest city in a “cold-hearted,” “military-style execution” as people were buying groceries.   

“It strikes us in our very hearts to know that there’s such evil that lurks out there,” she said. “This individual – this white supremacist – who just perpetrated a hate crime on an innocent community, will spend the rest of his days behind bars. And heaven help him in the next world as well.”

The suspect carried an assault weapon inscribed with a racial epithet, said U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, citing briefings with law enforcement officials.

Gendron was arraigned Saturday evening before Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah on one count of first-degree murder. Officials said they will weigh additional charges in the coming days. 

Gendron’s attorney, Brian Parker, requested that his client undergo a psychiatric examination. Hannah ordered that Gendron be held without bail. He will return to court for a felony hearing Thursday morning.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that investigators were looking into whether Gendron had posted a manifesto online. The official was not permitted to speak publicly on the matter and did so on the condition of anonymity.

Buffalo police declined to comment on the document that focuses on racist, anti-immigrant and antisemitic beliefs, including a desire to drive all those not of European descent from the U.S. The document indicated Gendron drew inspiration from the shooter who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

John Flynn, Erie County’s district attorney, said the suspect would face a variety of charges, including hate crime charges. Hochul said she had directed the state’s Hate Crime Task Force to begin an investigation. 

Gendron may also face federal charges.

“We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism,” said Stephen Belongia, special agent of charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office. 

Gendron graduated from Susquehanna Valley High School in Conklin, about 10 miles southeast of Binghamton near the New York-Pennsylvania border. He had been a student at SUNY Broome Community College.

Contributing: Christal Hayes, Kevin Johnson and Claire Thornton, USA TODAY, Sean Lahman, Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle; The Associated Press