BUFFALO — An 18-year-old man from the Southern Tier has been arraigned for Saturday’s horrific mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Tops Market.
Payton S. Gendron, 18, of Conklin, Broome County, was charged with one count of first-degree murder, according to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office. A not guilty plea was reportedly issued on his behalf by a public defender, and he was remanded without bail to await a felony hearing on Thursday.
Gendron has been described by various media as espousing white supremacist beliefs online and allegedly livestreamed the massacre.
“This was pure evil,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia during a 5:50 p.m. news conference. “It was a straight-up, racially-motivated hate crime from somebody outside our community.”
The shooting began at 2:30 p.m. when Gendron exited his car in front of the store on Jefferson Avenue, said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. Gendron was described as very heavily armed and equipped with tactical gear, a helmet and camera.
Gendron shot four people in the parking lot and killed three, Gramaglia said. Gendron then allegedly entered the store and began shooting again.
A store security guard returned fire and hit Gendron, but the bullet was stopped by the latter’s body armor, Gramaglia said. Gendron then allegedly shot and killed the security guard — who was a retired Buffalo police officer — and continued “working his way thorough” the store.
Police arrived and engaged Gendron inside the store’s vestibule, Gramaglia said. Gendron allegedly put his rifle to his own neck but two officers persuaded him to give up, and he was taken into custody.
Ten people were dead when the shooting was over, while another three suffered what were believed to be non-life threatening wounds. Of those shot, 11 were African-Americans and two were white.
Gendron was described by officials and eyewitnesses on Buffalo-area media as using a semiautomatic, assault-style rifle.
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn refused to release the Gendron’s name while the latter was awaiting arraignment and added he didn’t want to give the shooter any celebrity.
Flynn said that Gendron came from several hours away — Conklin is a town of about 5,000 people about 20 miles southeast of Binghamton.
Flynn declined to give further details but confirmed “certain pieces of evidence that indicate racial animosity.”
The FBI is also investigating the shooting as a hate crime and racially-motivated extremism.
The FBI has set up a website to collect any tips or videos from today’s shooting at the Tops in Buffalo. The website is www.FBI.gov/Buffaloshooting .
Gendron posted a 180-page racist manifesto online, according to media reports. It’s described as including diagrams and instructions for the shooting spree, along with racist and anti-Semitic statements about Black and Jewish people, and immigrants.
Police had been aware of Gendron because he had previously threatened a shooting at his high school, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
New York State Police said troopers were called to Susquehanna High School in Conklin last June after receiving a report that a 17-year-old had made threatening statements.
Police said the student was taken into custody under a state mental health law and taken to a hospital for an evaluation.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the pain the city’s undergoing cannot even be explained.
“This is the worst nightmare that any community can face,” he said.
The White House and multiple area lawmakers have weighed in on the tragedy:
n White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre — “The President has been briefed by his Homeland Security Advisor on the horrific shooting in Buffalo, NY this afternoon. He will continue to receive updates throughout the evening and tomorrow as further information develops. The President and the First Lady are praying for those who have been lost and for their loved ones.”
n Gov. Kathy Hochul — “In a cold hearted, cruel, calculating way, a military-style execution targeting people who simply want to buy groceries in a neighborhood store. It strikes us in our very hearts to know there’s such evil out there ... Mark my words, we’ll be aggressive in our pursuit of anyone who subscribes to the ideals professed by other white supremacists, and how there’s a feeding frenzy on social media platforms where hate festers more hate.
“That has to stop. These outlets must be more vigilant in monitoring social media content, and certainly the fact that this act of barbarism, this execution of innocent could be livestreamed on social media platforms and not taken down within a second says to me that there is a responsibility out there. We’re going to continue to work on this and make sure those who provide these platforms have a moral, ethical and I hope to have a legal responsibility to make sure this hate can not populate these sites.”
n Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. — “My prayers are with the victims of this racially motivated act of violence and my heart goes out to the victims’ loved ones, our emergency personnel and the entire Buffalo community. Racism, prejudice and hatred have no place in our state or our country. I pledge to the people of New York that I will continue to fight my hardest to pass commonsense gun safety measures and to confront and defeat the scourge of white supremacy.”
n State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma — “I am shocked and saddened by the senseless act of violence at Tops supermarket in Buffalo.
“It is impossible to imagine how someone could do this to other human beings. The perpetrator must be held accountable for his horrendous act of violence. We must determine why this took place and work to prevent anything like this from happening again.
“My condolences to the victims, their families and friends, including the brave security officer who gave his life to protect others. I thank the police & first responders for their actions at the scene.”
n State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda — “The tragic shooting that occurred in a Buffalo supermarket Saturday afternoon is heartbreaking for our community and people all across the state and country. My wife and I are praying for the victims and their families.
“I want to thank the Buffalo Police Department and Emergency Medical Services for quick action in detaining the suspect and aiding the injured.
“New Yorkers stand together in condemning this despicable violence.”
n Congressman Lee Zeldin, R-New York — “A casual Saturday supermarket trip to Tops on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo should NEVER end anything like this. Families, a community, and the rest of our state are all deeply shocked, heartbroken, and prayerful, learning of this devastating news. New York’s streets, subways, homes, and businesses need to become safe again, free of violent hate, and back under the control of law-abiding New Yorkers and law enforcement.”
n Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski — “All of New York and the nation mourns the victims of the horrific shooting this afternoon in Buffalo. This senseless act of violence is truly devastating to our state and most especially the Buffalo community.
“We pray for the victims, their families and all those impacted by this tragedy. And we also keep in our thoughts the police and emergency personnel who bravely responded to the scene. This is a tragic day and a reminder that violence has no place in our society.”
n Buffalo NAACP — “We are praying for the victims of the senseless act of violence the taken place in our community.”
n Attorney General Merrick B. Garland — “Tonight, the country mourns the victims of a senseless, horrific shooting in Buffalo, New York. The FBI and ATF are working closely with the Buffalo Police Department and federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.
“The Justice Department is investigating this matter as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism. The Justice Department is committed to conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation into this shooting and to seeking justice for these innocent victims.”
Includes reporting from Tribune News Service.