Shooter targeted black neighborhood in mass shooting in Buffalo, officials say


BUFFALO, NY (AP) — The 18-year-old white man who shot and killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket had been researching local demographics while looking for places with high concentrations of black residents, arriving there at least a day in advance to conduct a reconnaissance, law enforcement officials said Sunday.

Authorities said the gunman shot dead a total of 11 black people and two white people on Saturday in a racially motivated rampage he broadcast live.

“This individual came here for the express purpose of taking as many black lives as possible,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a Sunday news conference.

READ MORE: 10 dead in racist rampage by gunman at Buffalo supermarket

The shooter, identified as Payton Gendron, had previously threatened to shoot at his high school last June, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the 17-year-old was then brought in for a mental health evaluation.

Meanwhile, federal authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page racist manifesto that detailed the plot and identified Gendron by name as the shooter, the law enforcement official told the AP. . But the shooting – the latest act of mass violence in a country troubled by racial tensions, gun violence and a recent spate of hate crimes – has left local residents shattered.

It has also prompted New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a native of Buffalo, to demand that the tech industry take responsibility for its role in spreading hate speech.

Hochul told ABC that tech company executives “must be held accountable and assure all of us that they are taking every step humanly possible to be able to monitor this information.”

“How these depraved ideas are fermenting on social media – it’s now spreading like a virus,” she said on Sunday, adding that a lack of oversight could cause others to emulate the shooter.

Twitch said in a statement that it ended Gendron’s broadcast “less than two minutes after the violence began.”

Screenshots believed to be from the Twitch live stream appear to show a racial epithet scrawled on the rifle used in the attack, along with the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.

“It’s just too much. I try to testify but it’s too much. You can’t even go to the damn store in peace,” Buffalo resident Yvonne Woodard told the AP. “It’s just crazy.”

A mourner reacts while attending a vigil for victims of the shooting at a TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York, U.S., May 15, 2022. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters.

A preliminary investigation found Gendron repeatedly visited sites espousing white supremacist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories and thoroughly researched the 2019 mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, and about the man who killed dozens of people at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, law enforcement. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AP.

The manifesto posted online and allegedly authored by Gendron described a racist ideology rooted in the belief that the United States should belong only to white people. All others, according to the document, were “substitutes” who would have to be eliminated by force or terror. The attack was intended to intimidate all non-white and non-Christian people into leaving the country, he said.

It was not immediately clear why Gendron had traveled approximately 200 miles (320 kilometers) from his Conklin, New York, home of Buffalo and this particular grocery store, but investigators believe that Gendron had specifically studied the demographics of the population around the Tops Friendly Market, the manager said. The market is located in a predominantly black neighborhood.

In a Sunday interview with ABC, Gramaglia said Gendron was in town “at least the day before.”

“It looks like he came here to explore the area, to do a little reconnaissance work on the area before doing his sickening evil deed,” Gramaglia said.

Gendron appeared on police radar last year after threatening to shoot at Susquehanna High School upon graduation, the official said. New York State Police say troopers were called to the Conklin school on June 8, 2021 to a report that a 17-year-old student made threatening statements.

The law enforcement official was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and did so on condition of anonymity.

Members of law enforcement are seen at the home of the suspect in the Buffalo supermarket shooting

Members of law enforcement are seen at the home of the suspect in the Buffalo supermarket shooting, Payton Gendron, in Conklin, New York, U.S., May 15, 2022. Photo by Angus Mordant/Reuters.

Gendron, confronted by police in the vestibule of the store, put a gun to his neck but was convinced to drop it. He was arraigned later on Saturday for murder, appearing before a paper-robed judge.

Federal agents interviewed Gendron’s parents and issued multiple search warrants, the law enforcement official told the AP. Gendron’s parents were cooperating with investigators, the official said.

Among the dead was security guard Aaron Salter — a retired Buffalo police officer — who fired multiple shots at Gendron, Gramaglia said Saturday. A bullet hit the shooter’s armor, but had no effect. Gendron then killed Salter, before chasing other victims.

“He cared about the community. He took care of the store,” Yvette Mack, who had shopped at Tops earlier on Saturday, said of Salter. “He did a good job, you know. He was very nice and respectable.

Ruth Whitfield, 86, mother of retired Buffalo Fire Marshal Garnell Whitfield, was also killed.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told worshipers he saw the former firefighter at the scene of the shooting on Saturday, looking for his mother.

“My mother had just gone to see my father, as she does every day, at the retirement home and stopped at Les Tops to do some shopping. And no one has heard of her,” Whitfield told the mayor at the time. She was confirmed as a victim later that day, Brown said.

Katherine Massey, who had gone to the store to shop, was also killed, according to the Buffalo News. The names of the other victims have not been released.

“We pray for their families. But after praying – after rising from our knees – we must demand change. We must demand justice,” State Attorney General Letitia James said at an emotional service in Buffalo on Sunday morning. “It was domestic terrorism, plain and simple.”

The Buffalo attack came just a month after a Brooklyn subway shooting left 10 injured and just over a year after 10 were killed in a Colorado supermarket shooting.

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Associated Press reporter Robert Bumsted contributed reporting from Buffalo, New York. Balsamo reported from Washington.

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