Racist Buffalo shooting suspect questioned after being threatened last year

BUFFALO, NY, May 15 (Reuters) – A white teenager who killed 10 people in a racist attack at a Western New York grocery store in a black neighborhood was arrested last year and given an assessment of his mental health after he made a threat to his high school, authorities said.

New details, including the previous threat, emerged on Sunday that provided a fuller picture of the suspect, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, and his assault on a Buffalo supermarket that authorities described as an act of “extremism racially motivated violence”.

“The evidence we have uncovered so far leaves no doubt that this is an absolute racist hate crime that will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” the Buffalo Police Commissioner told reporters on Sunday. , Joseph Gramaglia.

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Gendron turned himself in to police after Saturday’s shooting of 13 people, 11 of whom were black. He was charged with first-degree murder – which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole in New York – and pleaded not guilty.

Authorities said Sunday that Gendron had traveled to Buffalo from his home several hours a day before the attack to do a “reconnaissance” in the area. On Saturday afternoon, he headed to Tops Friendly Market, where he launched an assault that he streamed in real time on the social media platform Twitch, a live video service owned by Amazon.com (AMZN .O).

Dressed in tactical gear, Gendron opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle he had purchased legally, but then modified illegally. Authorities found two other firearms – a rifle and a shotgun – in his car.

Gramaglia told reporters that Gendron appeared on local law enforcement radar last June when police arrested him after he made a “widespread” threat to his high school. Gendron underwent a mental health evaluation at the time, but was released after a day and a half.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul told ABC News on Sunday that an investigation would focus on what could have been done to arrest the teenager, who appeared to have posted a slew of violent and racist views online.

“I want to know what people knew and when they knew it,” she said.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Buffalo on Tuesday, the White House said in a statement.

“Our hearts are heavy again but our resolve must not waver; we must work together to fight the hate that remains a stain on the soul of this nation,” Biden said in a Twitter post.

A 180-page manifesto that has been circulating online, believed to have been authored by Gendron, outlines ‘The Great Replacement Theory’ – a racist conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by minorities in the US and in other countries.

Another online document that appears to have been written by Gendron sketched out a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the weapon and testing the live stream.

A spokesperson for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the documents.


Several dozen community members held an emotional vigil for the victims outside the store on Sunday, where Sharon Doyle, a 55-year-old security guard with the Erie County Public Library, led a chant of “Black Lives Matter, my life matters”. Read more

“We all go to this Tops. I was even scared to go to Walmart last night,” Doyle said. “I have to go to work tomorrow and I’m terrified.”

Nearby, at the True Bethel Baptist Church, a reverend led a mournful service for a crowd of worshipers, including a family of the victims and others who were at the store at the time of the shooting. Read more

One was Charles Everhart Sr., 65, whose grandson Zaire Goodman, 20, worked at the store. Goodman was shot in the neck but survived.

“He was pushing the carts towards the store and he was one of the first to get hit,” Everhart said.

The Buffalo shooting follows other racially motivated mass murders in recent years, including a Pittsburgh synagogue attack that left 11 dead in October 2018, and the Atlanta spa shooting in March 2021 during of which a white man killed eight people, targeting Asians. Read more

Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau’s field office in Buffalo, said the attack would be investigated as both a hate crime and an act of “violent extremism in racially motivated” under federal law.

Hochul, meanwhile, said she was dismayed that the suspect managed to livestream his attack on social media, which she accused of harboring a “feeding frenzy” of violent extremist ideology.

“These outlets need to be more vigilant in monitoring social media content,” she said.

Social media and streaming platforms like Twitch, which said it deleted the stream after less than two minutes, have struggled for years to control violent and extremist content.

“The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring any account reposting this content,” a Twitch spokesperson said.

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Reporting by Jenna Zucker in Buffalo, New York; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Doina Chiacu, Sarah N. Lynch, Gabriella Borter, Ken Li and Tyler Clifford; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis

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