BUFFALO – An armed teenager fascinated by a white supremacist ideology known as the replacement theory opened fire on Saturday in a Buffalo supermarket, methodically shooting and killing 10 people and injuring three others, almost all black, in one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history.
Authorities identified the shooter as 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, a small town in rural southern New York. Mr. Gendron traveled more than 200 miles to stage his attack, which he also broadcast live, police said, a chilling video feed that appeared designed to promote his sinister agenda.
Shortly after Mr. Gendron was captured, a manifesto allegedly posted online by the gunman emerged riddled with racist and anti-immigrant views claiming white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color. In the video that appears to have been captured by the camera attached to his helmet, an anti-black racial slur can be seen on the barrel of his gun.
The attack, at a Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly black East Buffalo neighborhood, evoked grim comparisons to a series of other racially motivated massacres, including the murder of nine black parishioners at a Charleston church. , in South Carolina, in 2015; a 2018 anti-Semitic rampage at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead; and an attack at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, where the accused man expressed his hatred of Latinos. More than 20 people died there.
In the Buffalo grocery store, where four employees were shot, the savagery and planning were evident: Mr. Gendron was armed with an assault weapon and wearing a bulletproof vest, according to the police. And his favorite victims also seemed clear: In total, 11 of those shot were black and two were white, authorities said.
“It was a racially motivated hate crime,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia.
At a press conference on Saturday evening, Governor Kathy Hochul – who hails from Buffalo – echoed that sentiment and denounced the attack as an “act of barbarism” and an “execution of innocent human beings”, as well than a chilling reminder of the dangers of “white supremacist terrorism”.
“It strikes us to the bottom of our hearts to know that there is such evil lurking out there,” Governor Hochul said.
Based on what was written in the manifesto, the attack appears to have been inspired by previous racially motivated massacres, including a mosque shooting in New Zealand and the Walmart shooting in Texas, both in 2019.
In the manifesto, which was being reviewed by law enforcement, Mr. Gendron – who had attended community college in Binghamton, NY – wrote that he chose the area because it was home to the most large percentage of black residents near his home in the downstate. Tier, a predominantly white region that borders Pennsylvania.
The document outlined a careful plan to kill as many black people as possible, along with the type of weapon he would use, a timeline, and where he would eat beforehand.
It also included details of where it would livestream the violence, a chaos it also calibrated. He carefully studied the layout of the grocery store, writing that he would shoot a security guard before walking the aisles and shooting black shoppers. He wrote that he would shoot it twice, in the chest, when he could.
He wrote that he had “passively prepared” for the attack on Buffalo for several years, purchasing ammunition and equipment, while rarely practicing shooting. In January, the plans “actually got serious”, according to the manifesto, which also praised the perpetrator of the 2015 South Carolina attack and a man who killed 51 Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019. .
Mr Gendron had read the racist writings of the New Zealand gunman, who also live-streamed his attack, a method also used in a shooting at a Jewish synagogue in Halle, Germany, in 2019.
During an arraignment on Saturday evening, Mr. Gendron pleaded not guilty to first degree murder, a charge that could lead to life imprisonment without parole. He spoke little except to confirm he understood the charges, and showed few signs of emotion inside the courtroom.
U.S. Attorney in Buffalo Trini E. Ross said her office is also investigating the killings as federal hate crimes.
Other gunmen referenced the racist idea known as the ‘replacement theory’, a concept once associated with the far-right fringe but which has become increasingly mainstream, pushed by politicians and popular television programs.
Officials said the camera the shooter was carrying was used to broadcast the attack live on Twitch, an Amazon-owned live streaming site popular with gamers. On Saturday, Twitch said it took the channel offline. Still, screenshots from the show were circulating online, some of which appeared to show the shooter holding a gun and standing over a body in the grocery store.
In his manifesto, Mr. Gendron seemed enthusiastic about broadcasting his attack, saying the live stream allowed “everyone with the internet” to watch and record the violence.
The massacre began around 2:30 p.m., authorities said, when Mr. Gendron arrived at the market from his car – on a sunny spring afternoon – dressed in tactical gear and a body armor. bullets and carrying an assault weapon.
He shot four people in the parking lot, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia said at the news conference, three of them fatally. When he entered the store and continued to fire, he encountered a security guard, a retired Buffalo police officer who returned fire. But Mr. Gendron was wearing heavy metal plates; he killed the guard and continued into the store, shooting shoppers and employees.
When Buffalo police arrived and confronted Mr. Gendron, he put a gun to his neck, but two patrol officers persuaded him to drop his gun and turn himself in, Mr. Gramaglia said.
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said he and his family periodically shop at the store.
“Some of the victims of this shooter’s attack are people we all know here,” said Mr. Brown, the fifth-term Democrat who was the first black man elected mayor of Buffalo, the second most populous city in the United States. New York.
The 10 people killed in Buffalo represent the highest death toll in a mass shooting in the United States this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks them. The highest death toll this year before that was six, in a shooting in downtown Sacramento on April 3. Six people were also killed in a shooting in Corsicana, Texas on Feb. 5, and the same number were killed in a shooting in Milwaukee. on January 23, according to the site.
In a statement late Saturday evening, President Biden expressed sympathy for the families of the victims and praise for law enforcement, adding that “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 repugnant white nationalist ideology, is contrary to everything we stand for in America,” the president said. “Hate must have no safe harbor.”
Gun deaths hit the highest number on record in the United States in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, rising 35%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
The gunfire in Buffalo on Saturday shattered a seemingly serene afternoon, sending shoppers screaming and fleeing inside the Tops, and families scrambling to find loved ones outside the store.
Ken Stephens, 68, a member of a local anti-violence group, described a gruesome scene. “I came here and there were bodies everywhere,” he said.
The attack took place in a neighborhood known as Masten Park on the east side of Buffalo. Dominique Calhoun, who lives near the supermarket, said she was pulling into her car park to buy ice cream with her daughters – eight and nine – when she saw people running and screaming.
“It literally could have been me,” she said of the people who were killed.
Dorothy Simmons, 64, usually spends part of her Saturdays in Tops, buying food to cook Sunday dinner, which she says is part of a common tradition in her community. On Saturday, however, she was at work in Amherst.
And when she heard the news, she broke down and cried.
“It’s our store,” Ms. Simmons said. “This is our store.”
Kellen Browning, Dan Higgin, Luke Hammill, Thrush Glenn, Adam Goldman, Alexandra E. Petri, Ashley Southall, Vimal Patel and Eduardo Medina contributed report. Jack Beg contributed to the research.