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Buffalo grocery store shooting: 10 killed in racist-motivated attack on Tops Friendly Markets store, police say

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BUFFALO – Ten people were killed during a mass shooting Saturday afternoon at a Buffalo grocery store in what law enforcement officials described as a racist-motivated hate crime.

Law enforcement officials said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old white man, approached the store in a predominantly black neighborhood and opened fire on customers and employees, shooting 13 people, including a security guard.

The massacre ended when Gendron surrendered to police outside the store. Later Saturday, he was charged with first-degree murder and detained without bail. He pleaded not guilty.

Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Buffalo, said law enforcement officials were investigating the shooting as a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said 11 of the 13 people shot were black.

Gramaglia added that the gunman, who was heavily armed and wearing tactical equipment, used a camera to livestream the attack and shot several victims in the parking lot before entering the store.

The merchant’s longtime security guard fired back, but the gunman’s body armor repelled the shot, and the guard was killed during the meeting, Gramaglia said. He called the security guard a “hero.” Four of those killed were store employees and six were customers, law enforcement officials said.

Eric County Sheriff John Garcia called the attack “pure evil.”

Gendron grew up in Conklin, a city in New York more than 200 miles away from Buffalo near the city of Binghamton. The gunman was not known to police, he said John Flynn, District Attorney of Erie County. Flynn said there was evidence indicating “racist hostility” on the part of the suspect, but he declined to elaborate.

Investigators review a layer of screeching that they suspect was posted by an armed man describing his white supremacy motives and ideology. The 180-page document was uploaded to Google Drive and describes the author’s radicalization on Internet forums, as well as a plan to target a predominantly black neighborhood.

The author calls himself a white supremacy, fascist and anti-Semite. The document centers on a right-wing extremist conspiracy theory that baselessly claims that the white population in Western countries is being reduced – or “replaced” – by immigrants in a deliberate plot.

The author cites Brenton Tarrant, the gunman who killed 51 people in a mosque in New Zealand, as inspiration for the attack. The author also mentions Dylann Roof, who killed nine worshipers in an attack on a black church in Charleston in 2015.

The scene of a deadly shooting in Buffalo

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the “senseless, horrific shooting” is being investigated “as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.” He said the Justice Department is “committed to conducting a thorough and prompt investigation into this shooting and to seeking justice for these innocent victims.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said it was “a day of great pain for our community.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D), who is from the Buffalo area, told reporters that the weapon used in the shooting appeared to have been lawfully procured. “I’m angry,” she said. “I’ve seen violence in the Brooklyn subway and now in the streets of Buffalo. It must stop.”

The Tops Friendly Markets store is located in a lower-income area of ​​Buffalo and opened about seven years ago, residents said. It filled a large gap and became the only supermarket within walking distance for many who live nearby. On Saturday, locals said, it buzzes with customers, including the elderly.

Saturday’s shooting is an echo of the March 2021 mass shooting in Boulder, Colo., In which 10 people, including a police officer, were killed in a King Soopers grocery store.

Kathy Sautter, a spokeswoman for Tops Friendly Markets, said the company was “shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence.” She said Tops appreciated the quick response from law enforcement and made all available resources available to help with the investigation.

Eyewitnesses described a scene of terror. Grady Lewis was outside the store and said he saw a white man equipped for war, wearing military-like fatigue and with a firearm in his hands. He said he could not believe what was unfolding before his eyes.

Lewis said the man opened fire and pointed the gun to the left and right while arbitrarily shooting people. Lewis heard more than two dozen shots as the man walked into the grocery store, he said.

A worker who identified himself as Will G. told Buffalo News that he had gone into a cooler to buy milk just minutes before the shooting. When shots were fired, he joined others hiding in the cooler.

“I just heard shots. Shots and shots and shots,” he told News. “It sounded like things were falling apart.”

He added: “I was hiding. I was just hiding. I was not going to leave that room.”

Lewis said that not long after the shooter entered the store, he went outside and placed the gun under his chin, as if he wanted to press the trigger. Surrounded by police, he instead dropped the gun, removed his bulletproof vest and knelt to the ground, Lewis said.

“It was incredible,” he said. “I mean you can be robbed out here, but people do not really shoot people out here.”

Philip Washington works at a nearby barbershop and came outside when he heard gunshots. He said he saw the shooter surrender to police outside the store, and “it was corpses lying all around him.” Washington said one of the women killed had saved her cousin’s life.

Daniel Love, 24, the owner of the barbershop, said that every day for about a week, the suspected shooter would sit outside Love’s store and pretend to use the wireless internet network.

Braedyn Kephart, 20, an Erie Community College student, said she and her boyfriend, Shayne Hill, also 20, pulled into the Tops parking lot to pick up an Instacart order Saturday afternoon when they saw a young white man in full military suit standing outside the store pointing a shotgun at his chin.

“We looked over and saw him standing there with the gun to his chin, and I think, ‘Why does this kid have a gun?’ Then I heard screams, “said Kephart. Police asked the couple to stay in the car for their safety.

While Kephart and Hill watched from their car, they could see the suspect fall to his knees and surrender to the police, who took him into custody. Other eyewitnesses said he laughed while arrested, she said.

“I’m pretty shaken. My mind is blown over everything that happened,” she said.

Samantha Faught, a spokeswoman for live streaming platform Twitch, said the gunman began filming and sharing the attack, but the company removed the stream two minutes after the violence started.

People who know Gendron were shocked by the news and described him as normal if he was quiet. A former classmate who last texted him months ago and spoke on condition of anonymity said he “was always a little bit weird, but never anything alarming or anything.”

Russell McNulty, a neighbor in Conklin, said he last saw Gendron at his high school graduation party a year ago. They smoked a cigarette outside together and talked about what the young man wanted for his future.

“Oh my God, we were at graduation party,” McNulty gasped after learning what happened. “He seemed like a normal guy.”

In the streets around the supermarket there was sorrow and rage and disbelief. “Everyone feels sad and angry about what happened today,” said Robert Nailor, 58, who has lived in the neighborhood all his life. “It was a hate crime, and it tells us how some people in the world still think today.”

Cedric Holloway, a retired Buffalo police officer, was guiding a group of teens in a town hall two blocks away from the supermarket as he began receiving hectic text messages about the shooting. He quietly left the room where the children were attending a workshop, made sure the doors were locked, and then calmly explained to them why he was turning off the light.

The high school students began searching social media and forwarding excerpts of the document allegedly written by the shooter to Holloway. They also showed him a photo circulating on the internet of the alleged armed man holding a military-style firearm with something written on the barrel: the N-word.

When he let his mentees go home for the night, he checked in with each one. “They told me not to worry, ‘They’ve seen this before,'” Holloway said. “How do you react to that?”

Joly reported from Buffalo. Libby March in Buffalo contributed reporting along with Alice Crites, Razzan Nakhlawi, Marisa Iati, Meryl Kornfield, Tim Bella and Annie Gowen.

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