The 18-year-old suspected of opening fire at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday told authorities he was targeting the Black community, according to an official familiar with the investigation.
According to CNN, the alleged gunman made disturbing statements describing his motive and state of mind following his arrest, the official said. The statements were clear and filled with hate toward the Black community. Investigators also uncovered other information from search warrants and other methods indicating the alleged shooter was “studying” previous hate attacks and shootings, the official said.
The Buffalo attack was the deadliest US mass shooting of the year. There have been at least 198 mass shootings so far in 2022, per the Gun Violence Archive, which — like CNN — defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, not including the shooter.
The owner of a firearms shop in New York told The New York Times that the suspect recently bought a Bushmaster assault weapon. A background check on the suspect at the time showed nothing, Donald told the Times.
“I knew nothing about it until I got the call from them. I couldn’t believe it,” said Robert Donald, whose shop is in Endicott, about 200 miles from Buffalo.
“I just can’t believe it. I don’t understand why an 18-year-old would even do this,” he added. “I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but I feel terrible about it.”
The revelation comes a day after a gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others at the Tops Friendly Markets store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. Eleven of the people who were shot were Black, officials said. The victims range in age from 20 to 86, police said. Buffalo police identified all 13 victims Sunday. Among them were a former police officer who tried to stop the shooter, the octogenarian mother of the city’s former fire commissioner and a long-term substitute teacher.
Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, a spokesman for Erie County Medical Center said Saturday night.
The suspect was identified as Payton S. Gendron, a rifle-toting 18-year-old from Conklin, New York, who allegedly wrote a White supremacist manifesto online, traveled about 200 miles to the store and livestreamed the attack, authorities said.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday the attack was a racist hate crime and will be prosecuted as such.”The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” he said. “This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind.”
Investigators believe the suspect acted on his own in the shooting, Gramaglia said. The suspect was in Buffalo a day before the shooting and did some reconnaissance at the Tops Friendly Markets store, the commissioner said.
Gendron, the suspect, 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 under suicide watch.
On Sunday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $2.8 million in federal and state funding for the victims and their families, according to a statement from her office.
“The past 24 hours have been traumatizing for New Yorkers, and my administration will spare no effort to ensure the victims of this act of terrorism by a white supremacist are receiving all the resources and support they need,” Hochul said in the statement. “The entire world is watching how we will come together as New Yorkers to overcome this unthinkable tragedy. Buffalo, my hometown, is the City of Good Neighbors and New York State will be good neighbors for them.”
New York State’s Office of Victim Services will be in Buffalo throughout the week to help administer funding and assist victims and families in obtaining financial assistance from the state, according to the statement.
In addition, Hochul announced a partnership with rideshare services Uber and Lyft to provide transport to and from local grocery stores for affected community members.
The grocery store company, Tops Markets, is also providing free transportation to members of the Buffalo community affected by the shooting “to ensure our neighbors are able to meet their grocery and pharmacy needs,” according to an update on Twitter from the grocery chain.
“While the Tops location at Jefferson Avenue will remain closed until further notice, we are steadfast in our commitment to serving every corner of our community as we have for the past 60 years,” the statement reads. “Knowing the importance of this location and serving families on the east side of the city, we have taken immediate steps to ensure our neighbors are able to meet their grocery and pharmacy needs by providing free bus shuttle service starting today.”
Saturday’s attack bears similarities to a number of mass shootings in recent years that were motivated by hate and intended to be seen online, including the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.