Buffalo shooting suspect branded ‘coward’ in courtroom explosion

BUFFALO, NY — A courtroom bystander yelled “coward” Thursday at the 18-year-old white man charged with the murder of 10 people shot dead during a racist rampage at a Buffalo supermarket.

A handcuffed Payton Gendron wore an orange jail uniform and face covering and was surrounded by half a dozen sheriff’s deputies during his brief appearance in an Erie County courtroom.

A prosecutor said a grand jury returned an indictment against Gendron on Wednesday, though it was not immediately clear what the charge was and how many counts were in that complaint.

The hearing lasted about four minutes and took place five days after the suspect was arrested at Tops Friendly Market, a grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood.

A judge ordered Gendron to remain in jail without bond.

“Payton, you are a coward!” a bystander, seated in court among relatives of the victims, yelled at Gendron as he was led out of court.

Gendron’s defense attorney declined to comment in court Thursday and did not respond to messages left by NBC News immediately after the hearing.

In a statement released after the hearing, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn confirmed that an indictment had been served, but prosecutors did not provide details.

“The grand jury investigation is not complete” and prosecutors “cannot comment further until an indictment is reported to the court following a full investigation,” according to Flynn.

Investigators have completed their work collecting evidence from the market, Mayor Byron Brown announced Thursday afternoon.

Tops Friend Markets chairman John Persons promised the location would reopen, but he didn’t commit to any timeline.

The owners of King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado reopened this market last February, about 11 months after 10 people were shot dead on March 22, 2021.

The reopened Tops will include a memorial to those killed on Saturday, Persons said.

“I am committed to assuring you that we will do everything we can to get this store transformed and open quickly and in a very respectful manner,” Parsons said, adding that his store will continue to run shuttles to nearby markets.

Suspect Gendron reportedly traveled 200 miles from his home in Conklin, a small town in southern New York, to carry out the attack.

The victims have been identified as: Roberta Drury, 32, Margus Morrison, 52, Andre Mackneil, 53, Aaron Salter Jr., 55, Geraldine Talley, 62, Celestine Chaney, 65, Heyward Patterson, 67, Katherine Massey, 72, Pearl Young, 77, and Ruth Whitfield, 86.

Three others were injured.

Buffalo shooting victims
Nine of 10 killed in Buffalo supermarket shooting. Top, left to right, Katherine Massey, Aaron Salter, Pearly Young, Ruth Whitfield and Celestine Chaney. Below, Heyward Patterson, Roberta Drury, Andre (Elliott) Mackneil and Margus Morrison.

Salter, a former Buffalo police officer, was working as a security guard in Tops that day and returned fire, hitting the suspect, officials said.

But Gendron wore tactical amor, allowing him to keep firing and kill Salter, authorities said.

The suspect allegedly released a 180-page document, revealing plans to attack black people while citing the racist “great replacement theory” – which falsely states that white Americans are being supplanted by non-whites through immigration, interracial marriage and ultimately violence.

Many far-right activists who descended on Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 chanted, “Jews won’t replace us,” among other slurs and bigoted slogans they uttered.

Katherine Koretski reported from Buffalo, while David K. Li reported from New York.

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