A racist, rifle-toting, livestreaming gunman wearing body armor opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday, killing 10 people and wounding three before being talked out of killing himself, police said.
“This was pure evil, a straight-up racially motivated hate crime,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia. Officials said they uncovered evidence that “racial animus” was at play but did not provide details.
Eleven of the victims are Black, and two are white. The suspect was described as an 18-year-old white man.
He was identified in court as Payton Gendron of Conklin, N.Y., and arraigned on first-degree murder. The FBI was also eyeing possible federal charges against Gendron, who appeared in court in a white paper gown and was held without bond.
Investigators said they could not confirm that the gunman posted a white-supremacy manifesto online. A livestream appeared on Twitch but was quickly removed.
Footage showed the assailant filming from a helmet-mounted camera before exiting the car with a rifle, on which he appears to have painted racist slurs and other messages.
“The shooter traveled hours from outside this community to perpetrate this crime on the people of Buffalo, a day when people were enjoying the sunshine, enjoying family, enjoying friends,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at an evening news conference.
“People in a supermarket shopping, and bullets raining down on them. People’s lives being snuffed out in an instant for no reason.”
When the shooter arrived at Tops Friendly Market on Saturday afternoon, the supermarket and parking lot was packed, and it appears he moved with lethal deliberation with an M4 military-style assault rifle.
Police said he shot four people in the parking lot, three of whom were killed, and then went inside.
A security guard, a retired Buffalo police officer named Aaron Salter, pulled out his weapon and tried to take down the gunman—but the body armor protected him, and the suspect killed Salter.
The gunman then killed six more people inside the store before moving to leave. That’s when responding Buffalo police officers engaged him in the vestibule, and the killer put the rifle to his own neck.
Two patrol officers “talked the suspect into dropping the gun,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. “He dropped the gun, reemoved some of his tactical gear, and surrendered at that point.”
The 86-year-old mother of retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield was also among those killed.
“My mother was a mother to the motherless. She was a blessing to all of us,” Whitfield told The Buffalo News after her death.
The news outlet spoke to the family and friends of several other victims, including Katherine Massey, who was gunned down while getting groceries, and a church deacon who was not identified by name.
The mother of another victim, a 30-year-old woman running an errand at the store, told the news outlet she had learned her daughter was one of the first people shot after seeing video on social media. She said she had still not been officially notified by police.
Witnesses said they heard dozens of shots.
“I just heard shots. Shots and shots and shots,” one employee told The Buffalo News. “It sounded like things were falling over... I hid. I just hid. I wasn't going to leave that room.”
A man who said he witnessed the shooting described it all unfold in a Facebook live video from the scene.
“I heard a shot that I knew was a gun. So I looked up, and I seen a guy just shooting people in the parking lot. And I seen smoke going everywhere. And then I seen security… run inside the store, and then I seen the guy get down and he was just going and shooting,” he said.
Afterwards, he said, the shooter came out, he took the gun and put it to his chin” and then “dropped it” and took his gloves off before finally surrendering to police outside. “Then he got on his hands and knees, and he got down and put his hands behind his back and then they arrested him.”
Sources say he drove to the supermarket and there were more weapons in the vehicle.
“It’s like a dream, but I know it’s not a dream,” Shonnell Harris, a manager at the supermarket, where his daughter also works, told reporters. “You see it on TV, I never thought I’d be one of them.”
At a press conference, Mayor Brown, told reporters: “We are hurting and we are seething right now as a community.”
The 18-year-old male suspect will be charged with Murder in the First Degree. The suspect has not been identified at this time as he has not be arraigned on the charge. The arraignment is expected to occur tonight in Buffalo City Court. pic.twitter.com/aP2LCqPSTC
— Erie County District Attorney's Office (@DAErieCountyNY) May 14, 2022
In a statement, the livestreaming service Twitch, said it was “devastated” to hear about the shooting.
“Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents. The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content,” it said.
The massacre is the deadliest mass shooting in the nation so far this year. It came a day after at least 20 people were shot in two separate incidents in downtown Milwaukee following the Bucks’ loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals.