Buffalo shooting: teenager accused of killing 10 in racist supermarket attack
A teenager in military-style clothing opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in a shooting that officials called a “hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism”, killing 10 people and wounding three others before surrendering to police on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
Police officials said the 18-year-old, who is white, was wearing body armour and military-style clothing when he pulled up and started shooting at a Tops Friendly Market at about 2.30pm. The attack was streamed via a camera fixed to the man’s helmet.
Later, he appeared before a judge in a paper medical gown and was arraigned on murder charges.
“He exited his vehicle. He was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear. He had a tactical helmet on. He had a camera that he was livestreaming what he was doing,” the city police commissioner, Joseph Gramaglia, said at a news conference afterward.
According to the Associated Press, the shooting was broadcast live on the streaming platform Twitch for at least two minutes before the service ended his transmission.
Gramaglia said the gunman initially shot four people outside the store, three fatally. Inside the store, a security guard who was a retired Buffalo police officer fired shots at the gunman and struck him, but the bullet hit the gunman’s bulletproof vest and had no effect, Gramaglia added. The commissioner said the gunman then killed the security guard.
Buffalo police told local TV news that in all, 13 people were shot. Eleven of the victims were Black, two were white. Four of the victims were store employees, authorities said.
Gramaglia said Buffalo police entered the store and confronted the gunman in the vestibule.
“At that point the suspect put the gun to his own neck. Buffalo police personnel – two patrol officers – talked the suspect into dropping the gun. He dropped the gun, took off some of his tactical gear, surrendered at that point. And he was led outside, put in a police car,” he said.
Buffalo’s mayor, Byron Brown, said: “This is the worst nightmare that any community can face, and we are hurting and we are seething right now. The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
The Erie county sheriff, John Garcia, added: “This was pure evil. It was straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the city of good neighbours … coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us.”
A spokesperson for Erie county medical centre (ECMC) said they were treating the three survivors, who were currently in stable condition.
The alleged gunman was identified as 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin, a community about 200 miles (320km) south-east of Buffalo in New York state.
Wearing a hospital gown, Gendron was arraigned in court on Saturday evening on first-degree murder charges and ordered to be detained without bail. Another court hearing is scheduled for next week.
The video showed the gunman, dressed in military gear, pulling up to the front of the store with a rifle on the front seat, and then pointing the rifle at people in the parking lot as he exited the vehicle, and opening fire.
NBC News reported that Gendron had been armed with a semi-automatic rifle, a hunting rifle and a shotgun, which were all purchased legally.
The security guard was later identified as Aaron Salter Jr. Police have yet to publicly identify the other nine victims.
Katherine Crofton, a retired firefighter and medic, recalled seeing Gendron after hearing the gunfire ring out while she sat on her porch with her dog.
“I didn’t see him at first, I turned around and I saw him shoot this woman,” Crofton told the Buffalo News. “She was just going into the store. And then he shot another woman. She was putting groceries into her car. I got down because I did not know if he was going to shoot me.”
The supermarket is in a predominantly Black neighbourhood, about 3 miles (5km) north of downtown Buffalo. The surrounding area is primarily residential, with a Family Dollar store and fire station near the market.
Buffalo’s African American community was on edge on Saturday night. “It’s sadness mixed with anger,” said a man who offered his name as Big John, “because he came all the way from Binghamton that’s like 200 miles away to do this.”
Many said they were unsurprised that police had arrested, and not shot, the white 18-year-old suspect. “If was Black he would have been shot,” said one man, who gave his name as Alias John, who was standing nearby. “They wouldn’t have given him a chance to surrender. They’d have shot him up.”
“That’s right. All day,” responded Big John.
Hours after the shooting the neighbourhood, one of the poorest in Buffalo, with poorly lit streets and run-down housing, was still attracting onlookers.
SJ, a 25-year-old white woman, asked why, if Gendron had posted a lengthy white supremacist manifesto online, he was not on any official watchlist. “It’s not just a war against blacks and whites, it’s also a war between the police and the people,” she remarked.
As the night drew on, some who spoke to reporters said they had witnessed the incident itself.
“I heard the pop pop pop and saw three people down,” said Grady Lewis. “I thought they were shooting a movie.” Lewis said he saw Gendron enter the supermarket, where the shooting continued. When he came out, he removed his tactical gear and calmly surrendered to police.
“I do know that this isn’t the first time this has happened in America, so this will be pretty much the same,” said Lewis. “There will be candles, probably have a march, some preaching. But nothing that needs to be done is going to be done.”
Lewis’s account tallied with that given by a witness earlier. Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, pulled into the parking lot just as the shooter was exiting. They described him as a white male in his late teens or early 20s sporting full camouflage gear, a black helmet and what appeared to be a rifle.
“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like, what the heck is going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face?” Kephart said. He dropped to his knees. “He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun and was tackled by the police.”
The president of the NAACP civil rights organisation, Derrick Johnson, called the shooting “absolutely devastating”.
“Our hearts are with the community and all who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy. Hate and racism have no place in America. We are shattered, extremely angered and praying for the victims’ families and loved ones,” he added.
Police closed off the block, which was lined with onlookers, and yellow police tape surrounded the whole parking lot.
The US president, Joe Biden, issued a statement late on Saturday. “The first lady and I are praying for the victims and their families, and hearts all across this country are with the people of Buffalo,” he said.
“We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement does its work, but we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth: a racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” he added. “We must do everything in our power to end hate-fuelled domestic terrorism.”
Police closed off the block, lined by spectators, and yellow police tape surrounded the full parking lot. Hours after the shooting, Erica Pugh-Mathews was waiting outside the store, behind the police tape.
“We would like to know the status of my aunt, my mother’s sister. She was in there with her fiance, they separated and went to different aisles,” she said. “A bullet barely missed him. He was able to hide in a freezer but he was not able to get to my aunt and does not know where she is. We just would like word either way if she’s OK.”
The governor of New York state, Kathy Hochul, tweeted that she was “closely monitoring the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo”, her home town. She said state officials had offered help to local authorities.