BUFFALO, NY (AP) — The white 18-year-old who shot and killed 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store had surveyed local demographics while searching for places with a high concentration of black residents, arriving there at least a day from are conducting reconnaissance ahead of time, law enforcement officials said Sunday.
Authorities said the gunman shot a total of 11 black people and two white people on Saturday in a frenzy motivated by racial hatred he broadcast live.
“This person came here with the express purpose of taking as many black lives as possible,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference on Sunday.
The gunman, identified as Payton Gendron, had previously threatened a shooting at his high school last June, a law enforcement officer told The Associated Press. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the then 17-year-old was brought in for a mental health evaluation afterward.
Meanwhile, federal authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page racist manifesto describing the plot and identifying Gendron by name as the gunman, the law enforcement official told the AP. But the shooting – the latest act of mass violence in a country troubled by racial tensions, gun violence and a recent wave of hate crimes – left local residents shattered.
It also prompted New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a resident of Buffalo, to make the tech industry take responsibility for its role in spreading hate speech.
Hochul told ABC that the heads of tech companies “should be held accountable and reassured all of us that they are taking every humanly possible step to verify this information.”
“How these perverted ideas fermented on social media – it is now spreading like a virus,” she said on Sunday, adding that a lack of oversight could lead others to follow in the footsteps of the shooter.
Twitch said in a statement it ended Gendron’s broadcast “less than two minutes after the violence began.”
Screenshots purportedly from the live 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.
“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.”
A preliminary investigation found that Gendron had repeatedly visited sites that espoused 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 of people in a 2011 massacre. summer camp in Norway. An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the AP.
The manifesto posted online and purportedly written by Gendron outlined a racist ideology rooted in the belief that the United States should belong only to whites. All the others, the document said, were “substitutes” to be eliminated by force or terror. The attack was designed to intimidate all non-white, non-Christian people and get them to leave the country.
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. the official said. The market is located in a predominantly black neighborhood.
In a Sunday interview with ABC, 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.
Gendron had appeared on police radar last year after threatening a shooting at Susquehanna High School around the time of graduation, the official said. The New York state police said troopers were called to Conklin School on June 8, 2021, over a report that a 17-year-old student had made threatening statements.
The law enforcement officer was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and did so on the condition of anonymity.
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.
Federal agents interviewed Gendron’s parents and issued multiple search warrants, the law enforcement officer told the AP. Gendron’s parents worked with researchers, the official said.
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.
“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.”
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.
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