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A gunman wearing military-style clothing and body armor opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY, killing 10 people in a shooting that authorities are investigating as a racially motivated hate crime.
The alleged shooter, who streamed the attack live online, was indicted on a first-degree murder charge hours after he was arrested, law enforcement officials said.
A total of 13 people were shot at Tops Friendly Market on Saturday afternoon, officials told a news conference. Of the 13 victims, four were store employees, including a security guard, and the rest were customers. Eleven of the victims were black and two were white, said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.
“It was a racially motivated hate crime,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia. “That was pure evil.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the gunman a “white supremacist who engaged in an act of terrorism”.
A public information officer with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office named the suspect as Payton S. Gendron, 18, who is white. He is from Conklin, NY, a community located southeast of Binghamton that is over a 3 hour drive from Buffalo.
If convicted, a first-degree murder charge is a life sentence without parole, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said during a Saturday night meeting.
The suspect pleaded not guilty and was held without bail. He is due to appear in court on Thursday.
Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the Buffalo field office, said the agency is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and “a case of racially motivated violent extremism.” Federal authorities are also looking into potential terrorism charges.
how was the attack
The shooting began at 2:30 pm ET outside the supermarket, located in a predominantly black neighborhood about three miles north of downtown Buffalo.
The gunman opened fire with an assault rifle, shooting four people in the parking lot, law enforcement officials said. Three of those people died.
After the shooter entered the store, the security guard, a retired police officer, confronted the shooter. The suspect then shot and killed the security guard.
The suspect was approached by police in front of the store. He briefly held a gun to his neck, but police said they convinced him to drop his weapons and surrender.
A racist rant posted online detailed the attack plan.
A screed written by someone using the same name as the sniper detailed a plan for the attack. Posted on the anonymous message board 4chan, an author who identifies himself as Payton Gendron says that “extreme boredom” during the pandemic led to his radicalization on 4chan.
The 180-page document is full of racist rants and appears to embrace the white supremacist conspiracy theory “the great surrogate” which claims that an elite cabal of Jews, corporate and political leaders is intentionally diluting the white population through permissive immigration and promoting Diversity.
The same odious conspiracy theory was defended by the sniper who carried out the massacre of 51 people in New Zealand mosques in 2019. The author of the document calls the New Zealand sniper his biggest source of inspiration.
The author of the document claims to be a student at Broome Community College at the State University of New York. The college said in a statement to NPR that he is not currently enrolled in the school.
The attack was broadcast live online.
The gunman streamed the incident live on the Twitch platform, according to a company spokeswoman. Twitch said the stream was disconnected less than two minutes after the violence began and indefinitely suspended the user from the service.
In comments after the shooting, Hochul said social media companies bear some responsibility when extremists use their platforms to amplify violence.
“The social media platforms that profit from their existence need to be responsible for monitoring and having surveillance, knowing that they can in some way be complicit in a crime like this, perhaps not legally, but morally,” the governor said.
Under federal law, online platforms have a legal shield from being held accountable for what users post. However, there are exceptions, such as when the content violates federal criminal laws.
The streaming platform did not say how many viewers the live stream received during the brief period it was available, but the company said it is monitoring the platform for rebroadcasts of any portions of the graphic footage, which violates its rules against streaming violence. .
“We are devastated to hear about the shooting that took place this afternoon in Buffalo, New York. Our hearts go out to the community impacted by this tragedy,” said Twitch spokeswoman Samantha Faught.
The Biden administration responds
The White House said President Biden has been informed of the shooting and will continue to receive updates.
“Tonight, we grieve for the families of ten people whose lives were senselessly taken and for all who are suffering the physical and emotional wounds of this horrific shooting,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.
The president said the investigation was still ongoing into the perpetrator’s motivation, but said a racially motivated hate crime “is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation. Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a loathsome white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America. Hate must not have a safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end domestic terrorism fueled by hate.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the FBI and ATF are working closely with the Buffalo Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
“The Department of Justice is investigating this matter as a hate crime and racially motivated act of violent extremism,” Garland said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to conducting a thorough and prompt investigation into this shooting and to seeking justice for these innocent victims.”
speaking to NPR all things consideredBuffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the investigation is ongoing and many in Buffalo are in mourning.
“Collectively, our community is heartbroken and in pain at this time,” he said. “I know a lot of victims and a lot of families involved. A lot of people in our community are touched by this in some way.”
NPR’s Odette Yousef and member station WBFO contributed reports.