Erie County DA: Buffalo Shooting Investigated As Hate Crime, May Lead To Terrorism Charge

BUFFALO, NY - MAY 14: Buffalo Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. According to reports, at least 10 people were killed after a mass shooting at the store with the shooter i... BUFFALO, NY - MAY 14: Buffalo Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. According to reports, at least 10 people were killed after a mass shooting at the store with the shooter in police custody. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images) MORE LESS

A white 18-year-old man allegedly shot 10 people fatally and wounded three at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday afternoon in what law enforcement officials described as “racially motivated violent extremism.” Out of the 13 people the suspect shot, 11 were Black, according to authorities.

In an online address Sunday, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said that he may pursue a domestic terrorism charge against Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, who is suspected of shooting people in the parking lot and inside of Tops Friendly Markets.

“We have evidence that this potentially was racially motivated. We have evidence that potentially may lead us to a terrorism charge,” Flynn said as he vowed to bring justice to families affected by the shooting with a fair trial.

Hours after the shooting on Saturday, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia called the shooting an act of “pure evil” and a “racially motivate hate crime.”

“This was pure evil,” Garcia during a news conference on Saturday. “Straight up racially motivated, hate crime from somebody outside of our community — outside of the City of Good Neighbors, as the mayor said — coming into our community and trying to inflict evil upon us.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the DOJ “is investigating this matter as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.”

“The Justice Department is committed to conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation into this shooting and to seeking justice for these innocent victims,” Garland said in a statement.

Gendron was charged with first-degree murder, the most severe murder charge under New York law, on Saturday. The suspect pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

Gendron allegedly drove hours to Buffalo and on Saturday afternoon opened fire at Tops Friendly Markets, law enforcement authorities said. Gendron live-streamed the shooting on the social media platform Twitch, according to officials.

Gendron allegedly wore tactical gear and was armed with an assault weapon when he encountered several people in the parking lot of the supermarket. Gendron is accused of shooting four people outside of the supermarket. Three of the four people shot died from their injuries.

Gendron then sought to enter the market, authorities said. He allegedly exchanged gunfire with an armed security guard at the supermarket. The security guard, who formerly served on on the Buffalo Police Department, died from injuries.

Inside the store, Gendron allegedly shot eight more people, authorities said. Six died from injuries.

Authorities said they are investigating a manifesto that Gendron is suspected of posting online days before the shooting. The manifesto reportedly outlined specific plans to target Black people and repeatedly cited the “Great Replacement” theory, according to NBC News. The conspiracy theory, popular on the right and often echoed on Fox News and by conservative lawmakers, claims a cabal is attempting to replace white Americans with non-white people through immigration, interracial marriage and violence.

It has not been confirmed that the manifesto was authored by Gendron, but it reportedly included a shared birth date and biographical details with the suspect. A PDF of the manifesto was posted to Google Docs on Thursday, two days before the shooting, according to NBC News. In the manifesto, Gendron reportedly refers to himself as a white supremacist and an antisemite as he outlines a plan to attack a predominantly Black neighborhood, the Washington Post reported.

Investigators are reportedly working to verify the manifesto and whether it is connected to the mass shooting, according to NBC News, CNN and the Washington Post.

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