Mass shooting at Buffalo supermarket was a racist hate crime, police say | CNN




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A mass shooting at a supermarket in a black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, on Saturday was a racist hate crime and will be prosecuted as such, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday.

“The evidence we have uncovered so far leaves no doubt that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” he said. is someone who has hatred in their heart, soul and mind.”

The statement came a day after a gunman opened fire on the Tops Friendly Markets store, killing 10 people and injuring three. Eleven of the people who were shot were black, officials said.

The suspect was identified as an 18-year-old from Conklin, New York, who allegedly wrote a white supremacist manifesto online, walked about 200 miles to the store and broadcast the attack live, authorities said.

“We continue to investigate this matter as a hate crime, a federal hate crime, and a crime perpetrated by a racially motivated violent extremist,” said Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office.

The victims included a former Buffalo police lieutenant working as a security guard and the 86-year-old mother of Buffalo’s retired fire marshal, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, an Erie County Medical Center spokesperson said Saturday night.

The suspect, Payton S. Gendron, surrendered to police and was taken into custody. He was charged with first-degree murder, prosecutors said, and pleaded not guilty in court Saturday night, Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah told CNN.

Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said Gendron is currently on suicide watch.

The attack bears similarities to a number of mass shootings in recent years that were motivated by hate and meant to be seen online, including the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

The Buffalo attack was the deadliest American mass shooting of the year. There have been at least 198 mass shootings so far in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, not including the shooter.

The shooter charged with murder during his court appearance

Investigators are reviewing an alleged 180-page manifesto that was posted online in connection with the shooting, two federal law enforcement sources told CNN. The author of the document, who claims to be Payton Gendron, confesses to the attack and describes himself as a fascist, a white supremacist and an anti-Semite.

The author of the manifesto says he bought ammunition for a while but did not take planning for the attack seriously until January.

The author writes about his perceptions of the shrinking size of the white population and claims that whites are being replaced by non-whites in a “white genocide”. This “replacement theory,” once a fringe idea, has recently become a talking point for Fox News host Tucker Carlson and other prominent conservatives.

In the manifesto, the author says the Buffalo supermarket is in a ZIP code that “has the highest percentage of black people that is close enough to where I live.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul told CNN investigators believe the suspect targeted the busiest spot in that area at the busiest time.

“It was targeted by zip code,” Hochul said. “It was the highest concentration of African Americans in a few hours.”

The zip code that includes the store, 14208, is 78% black, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. This is the highest percentage of black population of any zip code in upstate New York.

Hochul said an AR-15 used in the shooting was purchased legally from a New York state gun store, but was modified with a high-capacity magazine, which is not not legal in the state.

Hochul also told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the suspect was “on the radar” for law enforcement. “Just like a high school student compared to something he wrote in high school that was under scrutiny at the time by medical authorities,” she said.

Mayor Brown told CNN the suspect was monitoring both the community and the grocery store as part of the planning for his attack.

“Looks like he’s been here for maybe several days from the reports I’ve heard that he’s been scouting this community, scouting the supermarket, actually talking to some people in the area,” Brown told CNN.

The mayor identifies the hero who hired the shooter

At around 2.30pm the suspect drove to Tops Friendly Markets near the Masten Park and Kingsley areas. Wearing tactical gear and armed with an assault weapon, the suspect allegedly shot and killed three people in the parking lot and injured a fourth, according to a statement from Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.

The suspect then entered the store and exchanged fire with an armed security guard who was a retired member of the Buffalo Police Department, the district attorney said. The guard was identified as Aaron Salter, Brown said.

However, because the suspect was wearing heavy tactical gear, the guard’s bullets had no effect, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Saturday.

“He was very heavily armed,” the police commissioner said. “He had tactical gear, he had a tactical helmet, he had a camera that he was live streaming what he was doing.”

Inside the store, nine people were shot before the suspect was apprehended by police, according to the district attorney’s statement.

In a statement sent to CNN, live-streaming service Twitch confirmed the footage was broadcast and said the user “has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring of any account reposting this content”.

CNN obtained part of the live stream showing the suspect arriving at the supermarket in his vehicle. CNN is not broadcasting the video.

People hug near the scene of the mass shooting at Tops Friendly Markets store on Saturday.

Grady Lewis said he was outside the supermarket when he heard seven or eight shots and saw a white man in tactical gear spraying gunfire at the entrance to the store. Law enforcement arrived within two minutes of the start of the shooting, Lewis told CNN affiliate WKBW. He “heard at least twenty shots” before the suspect left the store.

“He came out, he put the gun to his temple, to his chin. Then he dropped him and took off his body armor, then got down on his knees and put his hands behind his back,” Lewis said, describing the times the suspect was arrested by police. “I thought they were going to shoot him but they didn’t shoot him.”

“I still don’t believe it happened…that a person walks into a supermarket full of people,” he said. “It was awful, it was really awful.”

Tops Friendly Markets released a statement on Sunday saying it was heartbroken by the violence. “Tops has been committed to this community and the City of Buffalo for decades and this tragedy will not change that commitment,” the company said.