BUFFALO, N.Y. — The white 18-year-old gunman who shot and killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket had researched the local demographics while looking for places with a high concentration of Black residents, arriving there at least a day in advance to conduct reconnaissance, law enforcement officials said Sunday.
Police say that Payton Gendron, a racist broadcaster, shot 11 Black men and two whites Saturday during a rampage motivated mainly by racism.
According to The Associated Press, federal authorities are still trying to verify the authenticity of a manifesto of 180 pages that details the plot and names Gendron as the gunman. But the shooting — the latest act of mass violence in a country unsettled by racial tensions, gun violence and a recent spate of hate crimes — left local residents shattered.
New York’s governor was also inspired by it. Kathy Hochul (Buffalo native) demanded that the tech industry be held accountable for spreading hate speech.
Hochul told ABC that the heads of technology companies “need to be held accountable and assure all of us that they’re taking every step humanly possible to be able to monitor this information.”
“How these depraved ideas are fermenting on social media — it’s spreading like a virus now,” she said Sunday, adding that a lack of oversight could lead others to emulate the shooter.
Twitch said in a statement that it ended Gendron’s transmission “less than two minutes after the violence started.”
Screenshots purporting from the Twitch live broadcast show that a racial epithet was scrawled and the number 14 are both on the weapon used in the attack. This could be a reference to white supremacist slogans.
“It’s just too much. I’m trying to bear witness but it’s just too much. You can’t even go to the damn store in peace,” Buffalo resident Yvonne Woodard told the AP. “It’s just crazy.”
Initial investigations revealed Gendron’s frequent visits to sites that promote white supremacist ideologies. He also researched race-based conspiracies theories. Gendron was also a regular visitor to the Christchurch mosque shootings.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Gendron had traveled about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from his Conklin, New York, home to Buffalo and that particular grocery store, but investigators believe Gendron had specifically researched the demographics of the population around the Tops Friendly Market, the official said. It is in an area dominated by Blacks.
In a Sunday interview with ABC, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said that Gendron had been in town “at least the day before.”
“It seems that he had come here to scope out the area, to do a little reconnaissance work on the area before he carried out his just evil, sickening act,” Gramaglia said.
Gendron purportedly wrote the manifesto online. It outlined a racist belief system that states that only whites should own the United States. All others, the document said, were “replacers” who should be eliminated by force or terror. It stated that the attack was meant to incite non-white and non-Christian citizens to flee the country.
Gendron, confronted by police in the store’s vestibule, put a rifle to his neck but was convinced to drop it. Later Saturday, Gendron appeared in court wearing a white gown and was charged with murder.
Federal agents interviewed Gendron’s parents and served multiple search warrants, the law enforcement official told the AP on Sunday. Gendron’s parents were cooperating with investigators, the official said. Officials were not allowed to speak publicly about details of the investigation.
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 gunman’s armor, but had no effect. Gendron killed Salter before going on to hunt for more victims.
“He cared about the community. He looked after the store,” Yvette Mack, who had shopped at Tops earlier Saturday, said of Salter. “He did a good job you know. He was very nice and respectable.”
Ruth Whitfield (86), the mother Garnell Whitfield, retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner, was also killed.
Byron Brown, Buffalo mayor, stated to churchgoers that he had seen the ex-firefighter at the scene of Saturday’s shooting and was searching for his mother.
“My mother had just gone to see my father, as she does every day, in the nursing home and stopped at the Tops to buy just a few groceries. And nobody has heard from her,” Whitfield told the mayor then. Brown stated that she was later confirmed to be a victim.
Buffalo News reports that Katherine Massey also died after going to the store to purchase groceries. The names of the rest of the victims hadn’t been released.
“We pray for their families. But after we pray — after we get up off of our knees — we’ve got to demand change. We’ve got to demand justice,” state Attorney General Letitia James said an emotional church service in Buffalo on Sunday morning. “This was domestic terrorism, plain and simple.”
This attack in Buffalo occurred just one month after 10 victims were injured by a gunshot at the Brooklyn subway. It also came less than a year following the deaths of 10 shoppers at a Colorado supermarket.
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