Buffalo police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia on Sunday shared new details about the whereabouts of the suspect connected to a fatal shooting at a supermarket that killed 11 people who were Black. The mass shooting is being investigated as a hate crime and the suspect may face a domestic terrorism charge, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.
Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, a white 18-year-old man, is suspected of shooting 10 people fatally and wounded three at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday afternoon. Out of the 13 people the suspect shot, 11 were Black, according to authorities.
Gendron had traveled about 200 miles from his hometown of Conklin to Buffalo. The supermarket is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. He was charged with first-degree murder, pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
Appearing on ABC News, Gramaglia said that Gendron had been in town “at least the day before” the mass shooting.
“We have worked through with the FBI, the state police, all of our partner, the sheriff’s department and found that this individual — and we’re not going to name him — but this individual was in the Buffalo area at least the day before,” Gramaglia said. “It seems that he had come here to scope out the area, to do a little reconnaissance work on the area before he carried out his just evil, sickening act.”
Gramaglia also described the moment Gendron surrendered to authorities. When patrol officers encountered the suspect, Gendron put assault rifles up to his neck before officers successfully de-escalated the situation, Gramaglia said.
“(Gendron) had dropped down to his knees and began taking off his tactical gear and they immediately took him into custody and got him out of the area and took him down to our police headquarters,” Gramaglia said.
Gramaglia’s comments come as federal agents reportedly interviewed Gendron’s parents and served multiple search warrants, according to the Associated Press. Gendron’s parents were reportedly cooperating with investigators.
A law enforcement official reportedly told the AP that a preliminary investigation found Gendron repeatedly visited sites championing white supremacist ideologies and racist conspiracy theories. Additionally, Gendron reportedly extensively researched the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand in addition to an extremist who set off a bomb in Norway in 2011 that killed eight people.
Federal authorities are currently investigating a 180-page manifesto that Gendron is suspected of posting online days before the shooting, according to the AP. The manifesto reportedly detailed plans to target Black people and repeatedly cited the “Great Replacement” theory, NBC News reported. The conspiracy theory, popular on the right and frequently espoused on Fox News and by conservative lawmakers, baselessly claims a cabal is threatening to replace white Americans with non-white people through immigration, interracial marriage and violence.
Buffalo mayor Byron Brown, who is the first-African-American to serve as mayor of the city, told CBS News on Sunday that he is “saddened” the suspect traveled to the city to attack the Black community.
“We are certainly saddened that someone drove from hundreds of miles away, someone not from this community that did not know this community that came here to take as many Black lives as possible, who did this in a willful, premeditated fashion, planning this,” Brown said. “But we are a strong community and we will keep moving forward.”
On Sunday afternoon, reports emerged of the shooting suspect’s contact with police last year following “generalized threats” at his high school.
Gramaglia confirmed to the New York Times and the Washington Post that Gendron received a mental health evaluation after he made a threatening statement while he was a student at Susquehanna High School in Conklin, New York. Gendron’s reported threats were first reported by the Buffalo News.
Gendron reportedly made comments about his desire to carry out a shooting around his high school graduation, the Buffalo News reported.
According to the Times, Gramaglia noted that the threat was not racial in nature. A day and a half after state police referred Gendron to a hospital to receive a mental health evaluation, Gendron was reportedly released.
Gendron was reportedly not charged at the time.