Buffalo shooting: Mass supermarket shooting was a racist hate crime, police say

“The evidence 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. “He is someone who has hatred in his 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 those who were shot were black, officials said.

The alleged shooter has made very disturbing statements describing his motive and state of mind following his arrest, according to an official familiar with the investigation. The official told CNN that the statements made after the arrest were clear and filled with hatred towards the black community, and he made it known that he was targeting the black community.

“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.

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 a reconnaissance at the Tops Friendly Markets store, the commissioner said.

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 suspect was targeting a predominantly black area

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.”

10 people killed in racist mass shooting at Buffalo supermarket, police say  The 18-year-old suspect is in custody

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.

The suspected shooter had previously been on police radar, officials said.

As a student at Susquehanna Valley Central High School, he made a “widespread threat” in June 2021, Gramaglia said. The student was brought in for a mental health evaluation and was released after a day and a half, according to Gramaglia. The threat was not racist, he added.

A New York State Police spokesperson confirmed to CNN that they investigated and responded to a report that a 17-year-old student made “a threatening statement” in June 2021 at the same high school. The student was taken into custody and transported to hospital in June 2021 for a mental health evaluation.

State police were unable to confirm how long the individual was in the hospital or the results of the assessment. They also declined to name the 17-year-old.

Earlier Sunday, Hochul told ABC’s “This Week” that the suspect had previously been under medical surveillance because of “something he wrote in high school.”

In his hometown, the suspect worked at the local Conklin Reliable Market for about four months and left about three months ago, according to the store owner. The owner described it as very quiet, while a neighbor also said “you wouldn’t get more than a word or two” from him.

How did the filming go

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 has been 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.

What we know about Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect Payton Gendron

“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 got out, he put the gun to his head, to his chin. Then he dropped it and took off his bulletproof vest, then got on all fours and put his hands behind his back “said Lewis, 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 walked 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.

CNN’s Samantha Beech, Tina Burnside, Travis Caldwell, Gregory Clary, Phil Gast, Jennifer Hauser, Chuck Johnston, Jamiel Lynch, Christina Maxouris, Artemis Moshtaghian, Sharif Paget, Shimon Prokupecz, Liam Reilly, Sabrina Shulman, Brian Stelter, Brian Todd and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.

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