BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Police Department said the alleged shooter that claimed 10 lives and injured three others traveled to the city to commit what officials are saying was a hate crime.
The suspect's name is Payton S. Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York, near Binghamton in Broome County. Eleven of his victims were Black and two were white. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says there is some evidence that the shooting had a 'racial component.' Gendron is white.
The Associated Press reports that investigators have interviewed Gendron's parents who are cooperating.
Police said he was heavily protected with tactical gear, heavily armed, and had a recording device active for social media.
Employees at the Tops on Jefferson say that Gendron went to the supermarket a month before the attack around Easter. A produce manager said he questioned why she, a white woman, was working there.
He was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge which is the highest charge in NYS, a mental evaluation has also been ordered and in five days he will be back in court for a felony hearing on Thursday. Gendron has been remanded without bail.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said Gendron is in their custody, and will remain there until further notice. Garcia said because of his actions of putting a gun to his chin, Gendron is on suicide watch with direct observation from deputies with video surveillance. He is in a unit separate from other inmates. Sheriff Garcia says Gendron will receive any mental health services that are needed while he is in custody.
Prosecutors allege that Gendron drove to the Tops grocery store on Jefferson around 2:30 p.m. with the intent to commit a crime. They further allege that he encountered several people outside the store, shooting four of them. Three of those people died from their injuries.
Prosecutors further allege that he entered the store and exchanged gunfire with armed security guard, Aaron Salter, who was a former Buffalo Police Officer. Salter died from his injuries.
Gendron allegedly shot eight more people inside the store, six of them died from their injuries, according to officials.
“This is a tragic day in the City of Buffalo. This defendant is accused of traveling to our area and targeting innocent people who were shopping for their groceries on a Saturday afternoon. I continue to pray for all affected by this horrific crime. I am committed to obtaining justice for the victims, their families and this community. My office is working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners in law enforcement into potential terrorism and hate crimes. This is an active investigation and additional charges may be filed,” said Erie County DA John Flynn.
Late Saturday, the Justice Department released the following statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland:
“Tonight, the country mourns the victims of a senseless, horrific shooting in Buffalo, New York. The FBI and ATF are working closely with the Buffalo Police Department and federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.
“The Justice Department is investigating this matter as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism. The Justice Department is committed to conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation into this shooting and to seeking justice for these innocent victims.”
A document circulated widely online seemingly outlines Gedron's racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic beliefs. Among them was a desire to drive all people not of European descent from the U.S. The document seemed to draw inspiration from the gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sunday that Gedron had threatened to carry out a shooting last year at Susquehanna Valley High School around the time of graduation. He was 17 years old at the time and was sent for mental health treatment. The law enforcement official was not authorized to speak publicly on the investigation and did so on the condition of anonymity.
(The Associated Press contributed to this article)