A heavily armed 18-year-old white man opened fire at a convenience store in a mostly black section of Buffalo, killing ten people and wounding three others, authorities said, in a racist attack that turned a sunny Saturday into one of the darkest days in city history.
The suspect was identified in court as Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York. He pled not guilty to first-degree murder Saturday night, a charge that could result in life in prison without parole.
Mr Gendron was armed with an assault weapon and wearing body armor, police said, and he had a video camera attached to his helmet that streamed the shooting live online.
The attack appeared to have been inspired by previous massacres motivated by racial hatred, including a shooting at a mosque in New Zealand and another at a Walmart in Texas, both in 2019.
A law enforcement official said investigators were reviewing a manifesto believed to have been posted online by Mr Gendron. It was riddled with racist, anti-immigrant views that claimed white Americans were in danger of being replaced by people of color, an ideology known as the “Great Replacement” theory. An anti-Black racial slur can be seen on the barrel of his gun in videos and images of the massacre, which appear to have been captured by the camera attached to his helmet.
Eleven of those shot were black and two were white, authorities said.
“It was a pure racially motivated hate crime,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said at a news conference Saturday night.
The massacre began around 2:30 p.m., authorities said, when Mr. Gendron, who didn’t live in Buffalo and had driven there several hours from Conklin, a town south of Binghamton, got out of his car dressed in tactical gear and gear body armor and carrying an offensive weapon.
He shot four people in the parking lot, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia said at the news conference, three of them fatally. As he entered the store and continued firing, he encountered a security guard — a retired Buffalo police officer — who returned fire. But Mr. Gendron carried heavy metal plates; He killed the guard and proceeded into the store, shooting shoppers and employees.
When Buffalo police officers arrived and confronted Mr Gendron, he put a gun to his neck, but two patrol officers persuaded him to drop his gun and surrender, Mr Gramaglia said.
United States Attorney in Buffalo Trini E. Ross said her office will investigate the killings as hate crimes. Stephen Belongia, the special agent for the FBI’s Buffalo field office, said the shooting was a “case of racially motivated violent extremism.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said he and his family regularly shop at the store, part of the regional chain Tops Friendly Markets. “Some of the victims of this shootout are people we all know up here,” he said, surrounded by the city’s political and police leaders.
The attack took place in a neighborhood known as Masten Park on Buffalo’s East Side. Dominique Calhoun, who lives within sight of Tops supermarket, said she was pulling into its parking lot when the shooting took place.
She said she saw people running out and screaming, so she parked across the street. She was with her two daughters, 8 and 9 years old, and the three had planned to go ice cream shopping.
“It could have literally been me,” she said of the people who were killed.
At the scene, Barbara Massey Mapps waited anxiously outside the police line for news about her 72-year-old sister, who she suspected was at the supermarket when the shooting took place. “I’ll be here until I see my sister,” she said.
Officials said the camera the shooter was wearing was used to livestream the attack on Twitch, an Amazon live streaming site popular with gamers. Twitch said it took the channel offline.
“The user has been banned from our service indefinitely and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring any accounts rebroadcasting this content,” said a Twitch spokeswoman.
Screenshots of the broadcast circulated online, including some that appeared to show the shooter holding a gun and standing over a dead body at the grocery store.
Other social media posts reportedly showed a list of instructions the shooter had prepared for himself — a to-do list that included “keep writing the manifest” and “test livestream functionality before the actual attack” — on the messaging -Platform Discord included. The Discord username matched the Twitch channel name.
Federal authorities are reviewing a letter of intent the shooter posted online, according to a senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details of the investigation.
The document, circulated on online message board 4chan, compared the shooter’s plan to other mass shootings motivated by bigotry and promoted the “great replacement” theory.
He wrote that he would use a GoPro Hero 7 Black to “live stream the attack on Twitch,” which he chose so that “all people with the internet could see and record it.” He noted that the 2019 shooting at a Jewish synagogue in Halle, Germany, was also streamed live on Twitch.
He then spent more than a dozen pages explaining what tactical gear he recommended for similar attacks, including knives, vests, and medical kits. He said that “conservatism is dead” and that progressives’ advocacy for equality is wrong because the average black person has a lower IQ than a white person.
The 10 people killed in Buffalo represent the highest death toll in a mass shooting this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks them. The highest death toll the year before that was six, in a downtown shooting from Sacramento on April 3rd. Six people were also killed in a shooting in Corsicana, Texas, on Feb. 5, and the same number were killed in a shooting in Milwaukee on Jan. 23, according to the website.
Firearm deaths hit the highest number on record in the United States in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, rising 35 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
“This is a historic increase, with the rate reaching its highest level in over 25 years,” said Dr. Debra E. Houry, CDC acting executive assistant director and director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, at a news conference this week.
Dan Higgins |, Luke Hammill, Glenn choke, Adam Goldman, Alexandra E. Petri, Ashley Southall, Vimal Patel and Edward Medina contributed reporting. jack beg contributed research.