By CAROLYN THOMPSON and MICHAEL BALSAMO
BUFFALO, NY (AP) – Federal agents interviewed the parents of the white 18-year-old accused of shooting and murdering 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket and issued multiple search warrants, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Federal authorities were still trying to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page manifesto posted online describing the plot and identifying Payton Gendron by name as the gunman, the official said. Authorities say the shooting was motivated by racial hatred.
Gendron’s parents worked with researchers, the official said. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation into Saturday afternoon’s shooting and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
A preliminary investigation found that Gendron had repeatedly visited sites espousing white supremacist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories, and had extensively investigated the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the man who killed dozens in 2011 during a summer camp. in Norway, the official said. †
It wasn’t immediately clear why Gendron had traveled about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from his Conklin, New York, home of Buffalo and that particular grocery store, but researchers believe Gendron specifically researched the demographics of the population around the Tops Friendly Market. and was looking for communities with a high number of African American residents, the official said. The market is located in a predominantly black neighborhood.
“It’s just too much. I’m trying to testify, but it’s just too much. You can’t even calmly go to that damn store,” Buffalo resident Yvonne Woodard told the AP. “It’s just crazy.”
In a Sunday interview with ABC, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Gendron had been in town “at least the day before.”
“Looks like he came here to scout the area, to do some reconnaissance work in the area before doing his righteous, evil, sickening act,” Gramaglia said.
Police said Gendron shot a total of 11 black people and two white people on Saturday in a frenzy that the 18-year-old broadcasted live before surrendering to authorities. Screenshots purportedly from the Twitch broadcast appear to show a racial epithet scribbled on the gun used in the attack, as well as the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.
“We pray for their families. But after we pray – after we get on our knees – we must demand change. We must demand justice,” Attorney General Letitia James said Sunday morning during an emotional church service in Buffalo. “This was domestic terrorism, plain and simple.”
Among the dead was guard Aaron Salter – a retired Buffalo police officer – who fired multiple shots at Gendron, Gramaglia said Saturday. A bullet hit the gunner’s armor but had no effect. Gendron then killed Salter, before chasing more victims.
“He cared about the community. He took care of the store,” Yvette Mack, who had shopped at Tops earlier on Saturday, said of Salter. “He did a good job, you know. He was very nice and respectable.”
Also killed was Ruth Whitfield, 86, the mother of retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told churchgoers he saw the former firefighter at the shooting Saturday, looking for his mother.
“My mom had just gone to see my dad, as she does every day, at the nursing home and stopped by the Tops to do just a few errands. And no one has heard from her,” Whitfield told the mayor at the time. Later in the day, she was confirmed as a victim, Brown said.
Katherine Massey, who had gone to the store to pick up some groceries, was also murdered, according to the Buffalo News. The names of the other victims were not released.
Twitch said in a statement it ended Gendron’s broadcast “less than two minutes after the violence began.”
Buffalo-born New York Governor Kathy Hochul called on the tech industry to take responsibility for their role in spreading hate speech in a Sunday interview with ABC.
“The CEOs of those companies need to be held accountable and assuring all of us that they are taking every human step they can to verify this information. How these perverted ideas fermented on social media — it’s now spreading like a virus,” she said, adding that a lack of oversight could lead others to follow in the footsteps of the shooter.
The mass shooting added further unrest to a country ravaged by racial tensions, gun violence and a wave of hate crimes. The day before, Dallas police had said they were investigating shootings in the city of Koreatown as hate crimes. The Buffalo attack came just a month after a shooting in a Brooklyn subway left 10 injured and just over a year after 10 were killed in a shooting at a Colorado supermarket.
Gendron, confronted by the police in the vestibule of the store, put a rifle to his neck, but was convinced to drop it. He was later arraigned for murder on Saturday and appeared before a judge in a paper gown.
Associated Press reporter Robert Bumsted contributed from Buffalo, New York. Balsamo reported this from Washington.