There is growing anger and grief in Buffalo, New York after a shooting at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood killed at least 10 people on Saturday.
The incident is being investigated as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism, according to law enforcement.
Out of the 13 victims, 11 were Black and two were white while the shooter is white, according to police.
Community members gathered near the shooting site on Sunday to pray for the victims and call out government officials for not doing enough to address racism.
“Nothing like this has ever happened, so we have a right to show different emotions,” Charles Walker, a local pastor, told Global News.
The alleged shooter – a white 18-year-old male – is in custody, police said Saturday during a press conference following the mass shooting around 2:30 p.m. both inside and outside the Jefferson Avenue Tops Markets, about five kilometres north of downtown Buffalo.
Federal agents interviewed his parents who were cooperating, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sunday.
“This was pure evil. This was straight-up a racially motivated hate crime from someone outside of the city,” said Erie county sheriff, John Garcia.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States was seeing “an epidemic of hate”.
“Law enforcement is proceeding with its investigation, but what is clear is that we are seeing an epidemic of hate across our country that has been evidenced by acts of violence and intolerance,” Harris said in a statement on Sunday.
“Racially-motivated hate crimes or acts of violent extremism are harms against all of us,” she added.
Who was the shooter?
The gunman was identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, a community about 320 kilometers southeast of Buffalo in New York state, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. The officials were not permitted to speak publicly on the matter and did so on the condition of anonymity.
A preliminary investigation found Gendron had repeatedly visited sites espousing white supremacist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories and extensively researched the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the man who killed dozens at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, an official told AP.
He had researched the local demographics while looking for places with a high concentration of Black residents, arriving there at least a day in advance to conduct reconnaissance, law enforcement officials said Sunday.
A 180-page manifesto circulating online on Saturday, believed to have been authored by Gendron, outlined “The Great Replacement Theory” – a racist conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by minorities in the United States and other countries.
“This manifesto tells everything to us and that is what’s so bone-chilling about it,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul told CNN on Sunday.
Another document circulating online that appeared to have been written by Gendron sketched out a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the gun and testing the livestream.
A spokesperson for the Erie County district attorney’s office declined to comment on the documents.
“This event was committed by a sick, demented individual who was fueled a daily diet of hate,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
Wearing a hospital gown, Gendron was arraigned in court Saturday evening on first-degree murder charges and ordered detained without bail.
Another court hearing is scheduled for next week.
The gunman was dressed in tactical gear and armed with a rifle.
Upon arrival, he shot four in the parking lot. Three died and one survived, police said.
The shooter then went inside the store and opened fire. One of the deceased inside the Tops supermarket was a retired police officer, according to Buffalo’s police commissioner.
The suspect put the gun to his own neck before Buffalo police convinced him to put it down and took him into custody.
The shooter livestreamed the incident and acted alone, according to police.
“At this point, the investigation is showing that he did this by himself,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters on Sunday.
The supermarket is in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The surrounding area is primarily residential, with a Family Dollar store and fire station close by.
“We have suffered a mass shooting with multiple casualties,” said Buffalo Mayor, Byron Brown.
“Many of us know this supermarket very well. Many of us know some of those who are victims of this horrific crime. This is the worst nightmare that any community can face, and we are hurting and we are seething right now. There is no comfort at this time,” he said.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” Tops Markets said.
“Our top priority remains the health and well-being of our associates and customers. We appreciate the quick response of local law enforcement and are providing all available resources to assist authorities in the ongoing investigation.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted that she was “closely monitoring the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo,” her hometown. She said state officials have offered help to local authorities.
The shooting came little more than a year after a March 2021 attack at a King Soopers grocery in Boulder, Colorado, that killed 10 people. Investigators have not released any information about why they believe the man charged in that attack targeted the supermarket.
– With files from the Associated Press, Reuters