A heavily armed 18-year-old white man opened fire on a supermarket in a largely black part of Buffalo, killing 10 people and injuring another three, authorities said, in a racially motivated attack that turned a sunny Saturday into a of the darkest days in the city’s history.
The suspect was identified in court as Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York. He pleaded not guilty Saturday night to first-degree murder, a charge that could lead to life in prison without parole.
Mr Gendron was armed with an assault weapon and wearing body armor, police said, and he had a video camera attached to his helmet that streamed the shooting live online.
The attack appeared to be inspired by previous massacres motivated by racial hatred, including a shooting at a mosque in New Zealand and another at a Walmart in Texas, both in 2019.
A law enforcement official said investigators were reviewing a manifesto believed to have been posted online by Mr Gendron. It was full of racist, anti-immigrant views that claimed that white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color, an ideology known as the “great replacement theory.” Videos and images of the massacre that appeared to be captured by the camera mounted on his helmet show an anti-black racial slur on the barrel of his gun.
Eleven of the people shot were black and two were white, authorities said.
“It was an outright racial hate crime,” Erie County Sheriff’s John Garcia said at a news conference Saturday night.
The massacre began around 2:30 p.m., authorities said, when Mr Gendron, who did not live in Buffalo and had driven several hours from Conklin, a town south of Binghamton, to get there, got out of his car dressed in tactical gear. . equipment and body armor and carrying an assault weapon.
He shot four people in the parking lot, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia said at the news conference, killing three of them. As he entered the store and continued firing, he encountered a guard – a retired Buffalo police officer who fired back. But Mr. Gendron carried heavy metal plates; he killed the guard and continued into the store, firing at customers and employees.
When Buffalo police arrived and confronted Mr. Gendron, he put a gun to his neck, but two officers persuaded him to drop his weapon and surrender, Mr. Gramaglia said.
United States attorney in Buffalo, Trini E. Ross, said her office would investigate the murders as hate crimes. Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Buffalo, said the shooting was a “case of racially motivated violent extremism.”
Buffalo mayor Byron W. Brown said he and his family regularly shopped for groceries at the store, a retail outlet of regional chain Tops Friendly Markets. “Some of the victims of this gunman’s attack are people we all know here,” he said, surrounded by the city’s political and law enforcement leaders.
The attack took place in a neighborhood known as Masten Park on the east side of Buffalo. Dominique Calhoun, who lives within sight of the Tops supermarket, said she was driving into the parking lot when the shooting happened.
She said she saw people running out and screaming, so she parked across the street. She was with her two daughters, age 8 and 9, and the three of them were planning to buy ice cream.
“I could have literally been,” she said of the people who were killed.
At the crime scene, Barbara Massey Mapps waited anxiously outside the police tape for news about her 72-year-old sister, who she suspected was at the grocery store when the shooting happened. “I’ll stay here until I see my sister,” she said.
Officials said the camera the gunman was carrying was used to broadcast the attack live on Twitch, an Amazon live streaming site popular with gamers. Twitch said it had taken the channel offline.
“The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service and we are taking all appropriate steps, including monitoring accounts rebroadcasting this content,” a Twitch spokeswoman said.
Screenshots of the broadcast circulated online, including some that appeared to show the gunman holding a gun and standing over a body in the grocery store.
Other social media posts showed a list of instructions the gunman had prepared for himself — a to-do list that included “continue writing manifest” and “test livestream function before the actual attack” — on the messaging platform Discord. Discord’s username matched the name of the Twitch channel.
Federal authorities are studying a statement of purpose the shooter posted online, according to a senior federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details of the investigation.
The document, which circulated on the online message board 4chan, compared the gunman’s plan to other mass shootings motivated by bigotry and promoted the “great replacement” theory.
He wrote that he would be using a GoPro Hero 7 Black to “livestream the attack on Twitch,” which he chose so that “all people with the internet could watch and record.” He noted that the shooting at a Jewish synagogue in Halle, Germany, was also streamed live on Twitch in 2019.
He then went on to describe on more than a dozen pages what tactical gear he recommended for similar attacks, including knives, vests and medical equipment. He said that “conservatism is dead” and that progressives’ advocacy of equality was wrong because, he claimed, the average black man had a lower IQ than a white person.
The 10 deaths in Buffalo represent the highest number of mass shooting fatalities this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which follows them. The highest death toll this year 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 Jan. 23, according to the site.
The number of deaths from firearms reached the highest number ever recorded in the United States in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, and rose 35 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
“This is a historic increase, with the percentage reaching its highest level in more than 25 years,” said Dr. Debra E. Houry, acting deputy director of the CDC and director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, on this week’s news briefing.
Dan Higgins† Luke Hammill† Glenn Thrush† Adam Goldman† Alexandra E. Petri† Ashley Southall† Vimal Patel and Eduardo Medina reporting contributed. Jack Begg research contributed.