The FBI is investigating Saturday’s mass murder that left 10 people dead and three injured in Buffalo, New York, as a hate crime, the agency said.
FBI officials said it was “aggressively investigating” the attack as “an example of racially motivated violent extremism.”
Authorities say Payton Gendron, a heavily armed 18-year-old white man, entered the Tops Friendly Markets store in a predominantly black neighborhood around 2:30 pm and unloaded a hail of bullets.
He identifies as a white supremacist.
Witnesses said Gendron wore camouflage and appeared to be “in the army”. Reports show that he was dressed in body armor. The gunman streamed the attack on Twitch, a live streaming platform.
Eleven of the victims were black and two were white.
“It was a direct, racially motivated hate crime of someone from outside our community, outside the city of good neighbors, as the mayor said, stepping into our community and trying to inflict this evil on us,” the Erie County Sheriff said. , John Garcia. he said at a press conference.
Gendron pleaded not guilty to first-degree criminal charges Saturday night. Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said it is the largest murder charge in the state. Flynn said he pushed for the suspect to be indicted Saturday night.
“We are now investigating terrorism charges, other murder charges, as well as working with our partners in the federal government so they can file charges as well. So I assure everyone in this community that justice is being done now and justice will be done,” Flynn said during a briefing.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Gendron drove hours from his home in Broome County, New York – more than 200 miles from Buffalo – to commit the crime.
He killed three people in the store’s parking lot before exchanging gunfire with a security guard inside, killing the retired police officer. Six of the people Gendron killed were customers and four were employees. The attacker later surrendered to police after “putting the gun to his own neck,” according to reports.
“It’s like stepping into a horror movie, but everything is real. It’s like Armageddon,” a police officer at the scene told the Buffalo News. “It’s so overwhelming.”
Katherine Crofton told reporters she saw the suspect shoot a woman entering the store and another guarding groceries. A dairy worker, Will G., told the Buffalo News he heard gunshots while refilling the milk. He and others hid in the refrigerator.
However, some who hid near cash registers did not escape the killer’s deadly ammunition, reports show.
Others flew out and around the store to search for their loved ones and co-workers in the chaos.
“I just heard gunshots. Shots and shots and shots,” said Will G.. “It felt like things were falling apart.”
Witnesses said the suspect initially ignored the officers’ commands “as if he wanted them to kill him” before they took him down.
Gendron faces life in prison without parole on the state willful manslaughter charge. The judge on Saturday ordered a forensic examination, and the suspect is expected to return to court in five days for a felony hearing.
Officers received a warrant to search Gendron’s home Saturday night. Investigators are combing through a 106-page manifesto connected to the shooting that shows admiration for South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof and New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant, reports ABC News.
According to reports, Gendron’s online manifesto shows that he has developed racist views in recent years, which have become more radical in the last three. Gendron had been “passively preparing” for the massacre for several years, reports The New York Times. He stocked up on ammunition and protective equipment and occasionally practiced target practice. In May 2020, Gendron began following anonymous conversations about the “white replacement theory”.
“If there’s one thing I want you to understand from these writings, it’s that white birth rates must change. Every day the white population decreases in number”, says the manifesto. “To maintain a population, people must reach a birth rate that reaches replacement fertility levels, in the Western world it is about 2.06 births per woman.”
Gendron also created a timeline for the attack, including a store layout.
The self-proclaimed white supremacist mapped out his parking spot, selected his meal in advance, and chose the location where he would start the live stream. He wrote down his plan to kill the security guard and shoot black shoppers twice in the chest if he could, according to reports.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul criticized Twitch and social media companies for failing to take action against hate speech on their platforms, demanding that they be held accountable for allowing “this hate to be spewed and others like that be radicalized”.
“A community has been destroyed by an individual, a white supremacist, who has engaged in an act of terrorism and will be prosecuted as such in a cold and calculated manner, a military-style execution targeting people who simply want to buy groceries at a neighborhood store.” , said Hochul during a briefing.
Twitch representatives said the video was removed within two minutes.