An 18-year-old enthralled by white supremacist ideologies opened fire Saturday, killing ten people and wounding three others at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The mass shooting was described as “racially motivated violent extremism,” officials said.
According to CNN, the shooting occurred Saturday afternoon at a Tops Friendly Market in a predominately Black neighborhood outside downtown Buffalo. The suspect, identified as Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York, was dressed in military gear while wearing a helmet camera live streaming the incident on Twitch, a social media platform primarily used for gaming purposes.
A portion of the video captured Gendron driving into the supermarket parking lot as patrons walked to their cars or inside the store. The shooter, seen in the rearview mirror, was heard saying, “Just got to go for it,” moments before the shooting. According to Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, the suspect shot four people in the store’s parking lot, leaving three dead and one critically wounded.
Gendron then went into the supermarket and started shooting at customers in the store. Aaron Salter Jr., a retired Buffalo police officer who worked as a security guard for the store, “fired multiple shots at the suspect.” However, the shooter’s tactical gear protected him from the guard’s shots, Gramaglia explained. The shooter fatally shot the security guard and continued combing through the isles for customers before he encountered police officers at the front of the store.
The suspect held a rifle to his neck as two officers talked him into dropping the weapon while removing some of his gear and surrendering to the officers. Officials said the suspect was taken into custody and transported to Buffalo police headquarters.
Gendron appeared before Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah Saturday night, wearing a white paper gown, and pleaded not guilty after being charged with first-degree murder, the Associated Press reported.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday at 9:30 p.m., Hannah told CNN. In addition, the district attorney’s office plans to indict the suspect, and additional charges will be added.
“Justice is already being done, immediately,” Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said at a news conference Saturday night.
“This individual has been arraigned on murder in the first degree, which is the highest charge — murder charge in New York state. It carries with it a sentence of life without parole, the highest punishment we have a New York state. He was remanded. The judge ordered a forensic examination. A felony hearing will now take place in five days. And then the investigation continues.”
Flynn told reporters that the judge was immediately called to arraign the suspect.
“We are now investigating terrorism charges, other murder charges, along with working with our partners in the federal government so that they can perhaps file charges as well. So I assure everyone in this community, justice is being done right now, and justice will be done,” Flynn said.
Though it is unclear why Gendron decided to travel more than 200 miles outside of his hometown to Buffalo and that particular store, investigators believe the suspect researched the area’s demographics with the highest percentage of African Americans. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the shooter traveled “hours” to carry out a racially motivated attack on innocent people in the community.
“The shooter was not from this community. In fact, the shooter traveled hours from outside this community to perpetrate this crime on the people of Buffalo,” he said during a news conference.
“We are hurting, and we are seething right now as a community. The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained. Some of us had the opportunity to provide comfort to some of the families, but needless to say. There is no comfort at this time. We are pleased that a shooter is in custody. The person responsible for the tragic events of today is in custody,” he said.
“This is the worst nightmare that any community can face, and we are hurting, and we are seething right now as a community,” Brown said. “The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
Shortly after the suspect was captured, police discovered a 180-page manifesto riddled with anti-immigrant views and white supremacy ideologies claiming that Black people were replacing the white race. During a news conference, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia confirmed the shooting was classified as a hate crime.
“This was pure evil. It was (a) straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the City of Good Neighbors … coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us,” Garcia said.
New York governor Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, denounced the shooter’s racist actions, calling for the maximum sentence he will likely face in prison.
“It is my sincere hope that 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,” Hochul said at an evening news conference.
She went on to say that social media platforms should be held responsible for their users “radicalizing” mass shooters, stating the livestream was “absolutely shocking.”
Before the chilling video was taken down, a spokesperson for Twitch stated that the platform has a “zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents.”
Tops Friendly Markets also released a statement saying, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
As victims continue to be identified, 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield was the mother of a retired Buffalo fire commissioner.
“My mother was a mother to the motherless. She was a blessing to all of us,” former Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield told the Buffalo News. He also said that Ruth had stopped at the market to pick up a few groceries after visiting her husband in the nursing home, which she does every Saturday.
Gramaglia told ABC News on Sunday that the suspect had been in town “at least the day before” the attack occurred.
“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.
Officials said that Gendron allegedly threatened to conduct a school shooting at Susquehanna High School last year around graduation, prompting authorities to visit the school on June 8, 2021, regarding the statements.
Investigators said the shooter’s parents were cooperating with law enforcement as the federal investigation continued.