Residents of rural Conklin, New York, were stunned Saturday by the news that the gunman charged in the Buffalo convenience store attack was a teenager living in their town.
Payton Gendron, 18, allegedly drove his parents’ car over 200 miles from Conklin to Buffalo on Saturday to massacre 10 people in a racially motivated mass shooting he streamed live on Twitch.
Conklin is a sleepy community of about 5,000 people on the Susquehanna River north of the Pennsylvania border in Broome County and 10 miles south of Binghamton. According to census estimates, the population is 95.7 percent white.
“It’s disturbing – this kid went to the same school system as me… how can someone with a similar upbringing do that?” said Alexis Sorbello, who works at Jumbo’s, the only bar in town that was open late Saturday. worked as a bartender.
At the local bar on Saturday, an American flag hung next to the pool table and there was pro wrestling and a baseball game on the big screens – but no sign of the shooting that garnered their small community a national spotlight hours ago.
Sorbello, who referred to the community as Trump country, said she first heard about the shooting from a local volunteer firefighter.
Construction worker Fran said he knew few details of the shooting but wasn’t shocked by the news.
“It could happen here because the society we live in is unstable,” he told the Post.
About the city, he said many people work at a nearby distribution center for Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“There are job opportunities here for every type of walk and race,” said Fran.
A woman in her 30s, who asked not to be named, said she knows Gendron’s family, who she described as “amazing” people active in the community.
Gendron’s mother is “super involved” with the local school, she said, adding that her son attended birthday parties for Payton Gendron’s younger brother.
“They were fine. They were amazing,” she told the Post. “They are closely related. His mother was super involved with the PTA [and] helped me with a few different things as if we had both been on board together. When I heard the news today I was at work and it doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Gendron was arrested for first-degree murder after shooting dead 13 people – 11 of them black – after posting a rambling white racist manifesto online outlining the shooting step by step.
“[I] I never thought, literally never thought, from what I met a few years ago, that he would ever grow into that kid,” she said.
She said Payton Gendron was one of three brothers who lived in the city with their mother and father, she said. He seemed like a “fun-loving sports boy” who played baseball, she added.
Three New York State police officers were stationed outside the Gendrons’ two-story garage for a car. The home is at the end of a quiet street of large single family homes with manicured lawns, but was closed pending police investigation.