Residents of rural Conklin, New York, were stunned on Saturday to learn that the gunman accused in the Buffalo supermarket attack was a teenager who lived in their town.
Payton Gendron, 18, allegedly drove his parents’ car more than 200 miles from Conklin to Buffalo on Saturday to slaughter 10 people in a racially motivated mass shooting that he streamed live on Twitch.
Conklin is a sleepy community of about 5,000 people on the Susquehanna River, just north of the Pennsylvania border in Broome County and 10 miles south of Binghamton. The population is 95.7% white, according to census estimates.
“It’s disturbing – this kid went to the same school system as me…how can someone who had a similar upbringing do that?” said Alexis Sorbello, who was a bartender at Jumbo’s, the only bar in town open late Saturday.
On Saturday, the local bar had an American flag hanging near the pool table and pro wrestling and a baseball game on the big screen, but no sign of the shooting hours ago brought national attention to their small community.
Sorbello, who described the community as Trump country, said she first heard about the shooting from a local volunteer firefighter.
Construction worker Fran said he knew few details about the shooting but was not shocked by the news.
“It could happen here because the society we live in is unstable,” he told the Post.
From town, he said many people work at a nearby distribution center for Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“There are job opportunities here for every walk and run for every type of person,” Fran said.
A woman in her 30s who did not wish to be named said she knew Gendron’s family, whom she described as “fantastic” people active in the community.
Gendron’s mother was “super involved” in the local school, she said, adding that her son attended Payton Gendron’s younger brother’s birthday parties.
“They were fine. They were fantastic,” she told the Post. “They’re very tight-knit. His mom was super involved with the PTA. [and] helped me with a few different things, like we were both on board together. So when I heard the news today I was at work and it makes no sense.
Gendron was arrested for first-degree murder after shooting dead 13 people — 11 of them black — after posting a rambling white supremacist manifesto online that described the shooting step-by-step.
“[I] I never would have thought, literally, I never would have thought, from what I had encountered a few years ago, that he would ever become that child,” she said.
She said Payton Gendron is one of three brothers who lived with their mother and father in the town, she said. He had appeared to be a “fun-loving athletic kid” who played baseball, she added.
Three New York State Troopers were stationed outside the Gendrons’ two-story, one-car garage home. The house sits near the end of a quiet road of large single-family homes with manicured lawns, but was closed amid the police investigation.