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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

10 people killed and 3 wounded in shooting at Buffalo grocery store

The police said the gunman, whom they described as an 18-year-old white man from outside the city, was motivated by racism. He appeared in court hours after the shooting and pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder.

By Jesse McKinley, Alex Traub and Troy Closson

A teenage gunman entranced by a white supremacist ideology known as replacement theory opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday, methodically shooting and killing 10 people and injuring three more, almost all of them Black, in one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history.

Authorities identified the gunman as 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, a small town in New York’s rural Southern Tier. Gendron drove more than 200 miles to mount his attack, which he also livestreamed, police said, a chilling video feed that appeared designed to promote his sinister agenda.

Shortly after Gendron was captured, a manifesto believed to have been posted online by the gunman emerged, riddled with racist, anti-immigrant views that claimed white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color. In the video that appeared to have been captured by the camera affixed to his helmet, an anti-Black racial slur can be seen on the barrel of his weapon.

The attack, at a Tops Friendly Market in a largely Black neighborhood in east Buffalo, conjured grim comparisons to a series of other massacres motivated by racism, including the killing of nine Black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015; an antisemitic rampage in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 that left 11 people dead; and an attack at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, where the man charged had expressed 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: Gendron was armed with an assault weapon and wore body armor, police said. And his preferred victims seemed clear as well: All told, 11 of the people shot were Black and two were white, authorities said.

“It was a straight up racially motivated hate crime,” said John Garcia, the Erie County sheriff.

In a news conference Saturday evening, Gov. Kathy Hochul — a Buffalo native — echoed that sentiment and decried the attack as an “act of barbarism” and an “execution of innocent human beings,” as well as a frightening reminder of the dangers of “white supremacist terrorism.”

“It strikes us in our very hearts to know that there is such evil that lurks out there,” Hochul said.

Based on what was written in the manifesto, the attack appeared to have been inspired by earlier massacres that were motivated by racial hatred, 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, Gendron — who had attended a community college in Binghamton, New York — wrote that he had selected the area because it held the largest percentage of Black residents near his home in the state’s Southern Tier, a predominantly white region that borders Pennsylvania.

The document outlined a careful plan to kill as many Black people as possible, complete with the type of gun he would use, a timeline, and where he would eat beforehand.

It also included details of where he would livestream the violence, mayhem that he had also calibrated. He carefully studied the layout of the grocery, writing that he would shoot a security guard before stalking through aisles and firing upon Black shoppers. He wrote that he would shoot some twice, in the chest, when he could.

In an arraignment Saturday evening, 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 gave little indication of emotion inside the courtroom.

The U.S. attorney in Buffalo, Trini Ross, said her office was also investigating the killings as federal hate crimes.

The massacre began around 2:30 p.m., authorities said, when Gendron arrived at the market stepping out of his car — on a sunny spring afternoon — dressed in tactical gear and body armor and carrying an assault weapon.

He shot four people in the parking lot, three of them fatally, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at the news conference. When he entered the store and continued shooting, he encountered a security guard, a retired Buffalo police officer who returned fire. But Gendron was wearing heavy metal plating; he killed the guard and continued into the store, firing on shoppers and employees.

When Buffalo police officers arrived and confronted Gendron, he put a gun to his neck, but two patrolmen persuaded him to drop his weapon and surrender, Gramaglia said.

The attack took place in a neighborhood known as Masten Park on Buffalo’s east side. Dominique Calhoun, who lives within sight of the supermarket, said she was pulling into its parking lot to buy ice cream with her daughters — 8 and 9 years old — when she saw people running out and screaming.

“That literally could have been me,” she said of the people who were killed.

Dorothy Simmons, 64, typically spends part of her Saturdays at Tops, shopping for food to prepare for Sunday dinner, something she says is part of a common tradition in her community. On Saturday, however, she was at work in Amherst, New York.

And when she heard the news, she broke down and cried.

“This is our store,” Simmons said. “This is our store.”

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