A white gunman motivated by hate and dressed in tactical gear killed 10 people and wounded three others Saturday afternoon at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, officials said.
The suspect, an 18-year-old man, shot 13 people — 11 of whom are Black and two who are white — at the Tops Friendly Market, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.
Officials said he streamed the attack on a social media platform.
A Twitch spokesperson said the platform has investigated and confirmed that the stream was removed “less than two minutes after the violence started.”
“This was pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said at a news conference. “Straight up racially motivated, hate crime from somebody outside of our community — outside of the City of Good Neighbors, as the mayor said — coming into our community and trying to inflict evil upon us.”
An apparent manifesto with the suspect’s name, a shared birthdate, and biographical details in common with the suspect, was posted to Google Docs on Thursday night.
In it, the author claimed to have been radicalized online and appeared to adhere to the false replacement theory, which has been used by white killers to justify violence against Muslims, Latinos, and Jewish people around the world.
A senior law enforcement official said authorities were working to verify the document’s authenticity.
“We are aware of the manifesto allegedly written by the suspect and we’re working to definitively confirm that he is the author,” the law enforcement official said.
The suspect, Payton S. Gendron, of Conklin, New York, was arraigned Saturday evening in Buffalo City Court on one count of murder in the first degree, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office said.
He was remanded without bail and a felony hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning, according to the office.
In a written statement, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said 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,” Garland said.
‘The worst nightmare’
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the suspect “is from hours away and drove to Buffalo” to commit the crime.
“This is the worst nightmare that any community can face,” he said.
A heavily armed man wearing tactical gear went to the store on Jefferson Avenue about 2:30 p.m. and opened fire in the parking lot. He fatally shot three people and wounded one before entering the store and continuing to shoot, Gramaglia said.
A security guard returned fire but the rounds didn’t appear to penetrate the suspect’s ballistic gear. The suspect returned fire and fatally shot the guard, officials said.
The suspect then walked through the store shooting. Responding Buffalo officers engaged the suspect in the store’s vestibule, and the man responded by putting a gun to his neck, Gramaglia said.
The officers talked him into surrendering. The suspect removed some of his tactical gear before officers took him into custody, he said.
Four store employees, including the security guard who was a retired Buffalo officer, were among the 13 people shot.
ECMC Hospital in Buffalo said it was treating three victims and all were stabilized. One patient was discharged Saturday night, the hospital said.
New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said in a tweet that the son of one of his staff members was among the victims.
“She’s sitting in a hospital waiting room, because her beautiful, extraordinary son was shot while he was simply doing his job,” he said in a statement.
Additional information about the victims has not been released.
Jennifer Tookes said she and her cousin were shopping at Tops when she heard multiple shots coming from the front of the store.
“He stopped, shot again. Stopped, and started shooting again,” Tookes said.
She said she ran to her car, passing three bodies in the parking lot, and called her cousin, who had hidden in the freezer until the shooting stopped.
“I’ll have this in my head for the rest of my life,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go into a grocery store or a store.”
Replacement theory and mass shootings
Replacement theory, the conspiracy cited in Gendron’s apparent manifesto, has roots that date back to the early 20th century, but today people are more likely to know it from French writer Renaud Camus’s 2011 essay, the title of which translates to “the great replacement,” according to the anti-hate group ADL.
In it, Camus argues that immigrants from the Middle East and Africa are replacing native white Europeans, which, he says, will lead to the extinction of the white race, the ADL said.
White supremacists have adopted and promoted the “great replacement” theory, according to the ADL, which said in a statement Saturday that the document’s language “closely echoes the themes of previous rants posted by white supremacist shooters, and refers repeatedly to the virulently racist and antisemitic Great Replacement conspiracy theory.”
In the document, the writer claims he was radicalized on an extremist 4chan forum while he was “bored” at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.
The document also says Buffalo was targeted because it’s the city with the most Black residents that’s nearest to the author’s residence, and repeatedly references the gunman who killed 51 people and injured dozens of others in the 2019 shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The ADL said the apparent manifesto closely parallels the language in the document written by the Christchurch shooter.
The tenets of the theory have been referenced by other mass shooting suspects, including the 2018 fatal shooting of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the shooting that killed one and wounded three others at a Poway, Calif. synagogue in 2019; and the gunman accused of killing 23 people and wounding numerous others at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019.
Weapons legally purchased, official says
A senior law enforcement official said the suspect’s parents are distraught and cooperating with authorities. They said their son recently and legally purchased the weapons, the official said.
Investigators are looking into where and how those weapons — a semiautomatic rifle, a hunting rifle and a shotgun — were purchased, the law enforcement official said.
The suspect appeared to have the N-word written or etched on one of the weapons, law enforcement sources said.
One firearm also had “Here’s your reparations” written on it, according to photos of the weapons that a law enforcement source confirmed belonged to the suspect.
Late Saturday, President Joe Biden said he was grieving the victims’ loved ones, thankful for the law enforcement response, and prayerful for the people of Buffalo.
He said in a statement that while the investigation into the shooting is not yet conclusive, the nation needs to do everything in its power to end hate-fueled violence.
“A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” he said. “Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said at an evening press conference that social media should have some ethical and perhaps legal responsibility for events related to the attack, including “radicalizing” mass shooters. The hosting of the livestream, she said, was “absolutely shocking.”
Continued gun violence in the United States, she added, must cease. “Yeah, I’m angry,” Hochul said.
A spokesperson for Twitch, the livestreaming service that the suspect apparently used during the shooting before the video was taken down, said the platform has a “zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents.”
“The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content,” the spokesperson said.
In New York City, police said houses of worship would be the focus of extra vigilance.
“While we assess there is no threat to New York City stemming from this incident, out of an abundance of caution, we have shifted counterterrorism and patrol resources to give special attention to a number of locations and areas including major houses of worship in communities of color,” said Sgt. Brendan Ryan.
The NAACP of Buffalo said in a statement, “We are praying for the victims of the senseless act of violence the taken place in our community.”
Tops Friendly Markets spokeswoman Kathleen A. Sautter said in a statement, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
“Our top priority remains the health and well-being of our associates and customers,” she said. “We appreciate the quick response of local law enforcement and are providing all available resources to assist authorities in the ongoing investigation.”
Brown, the mayor, said he had helped bring the Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue to the Black community and that many people he knew, as well as his own family, patronized the store.
“Many of us know those who are victims of this horrific crime,” he said. “So this is painful.”
He urged the Buffalo community and the nation not to let the attack inspire further division, and noted that Buffalo’s motto is “City of Good Neighbors.”
“We can’t let an evil person divide this community and an evil person divide our country,” Brown said.