BUFFALO, NY — An 18-year-old white man wearing military gear and broadcasting live with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, killing 10 people and wounding three others on Saturday in what authorities described as “racially motivated violent extremism”.
Police said he shot 11 black and two white victims before turning him in to authorities in a rampage that was broadcast live on the streaming platform Twitch.
Later, he appeared before a judge in a paper medical gown and was arraigned on a murder charge.
“It is my sincere hope that this individual, this white supremacist who has just perpetrated a hate crime against an innocent community, spends the rest of his days behind bars. And heaven help him in the next world too,” Governor Kathy Hochul said, speaking near the scene of the attack.
The massacre shocked an unstable nation gripped by racial tensions, gun violence and a series of hate crimes. The day before the shooting, Dallas police said they were investigating a series of Koreatown shootings as hate crimes. The Buffalo attack came just a month after another mass shooting on a Brooklyn subway train injured 10 people.
The suspected gunman in Saturday’s attack on the Tops Friendly Market was identified as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Buffalo.
It was not immediately clear why Payton had traveled to Buffalo and to that particular grocery store. A clip apparently from his Twitch account, posted on social media, showed Gendron arriving at the supermarket in his car.
The gunman shot four people outside the store, three fatally, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. Inside the store, security guard Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer, fired multiple shots. One bullet hit the gunman’s body armor but had no effect, Gramaglia said.
The gunman then killed the guard, the commissioner said, and then went through the store and shot other victims.
Police entered the store and confronted the gunman in the lobby. He put his rifle to his own neck, but two officers convinced him to drop the gun, Gramaglia said.
“This is the worst nightmare any community can face, and we are hurt and angry right now,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at the news conference. “The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
Twitch said in a statement that it ended Gendron’s stream “less than two minutes after the violence began”.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that investigators were looking into whether he had posted a manifesto online. The official was not allowed to speak publicly about the matter and did so on condition of anonymity.
Buffalo police declined to comment on the document, which has been widely circulated online, which purports to describe the shooter’s racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic beliefs, including a desire to expel all people who are not of European descent from the US.
He said he was inspired by the man who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
At the press conference earlier, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia pointedly called the shooting a hate crime.
“This was pure evil. It was a directly racially motivated hate crime from someone outside of our community, outside of the City of Good Neighbors, who came into our community and tried to inflict that evil on us,” Garcia said.
Among the dead was Ruth Whitfield, the 86-year-old mother of a retired Buffalo fire commissioner.
“My mother was a mother to orphans. She was a blessing to all of us,” former Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield told the Buffalo News.
Witnesses Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both in their 20s, entered the parking lot just as the shooter was leaving.
“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like what the hell is going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face? Kephart said. He fell to his knees. He “removed his helmet, dropped his weapon and was accosted by police.”
Authorities said the rifle Gendron used in the attack was purchased legally, but the magazines he used as ammunition could not be sold in New York.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that he and the first lady were praying for the victims and their families.
“We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement goes about their business, but we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth: A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” he said.
“Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America.”
Tops Friendly Markets released a statement that 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.”
The shooting comes just over a year after a March 2021 attack at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, that killed 10 people. Investigators have not released any information on why they believe the man accused of that attack targeted the supermarket.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson issued a statement calling the Buffalo shooting “absolutely devastating”.
“Hate and racism have no place in America,” he said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton urged the White House to convene a meeting with Black, Jewish and Asian leaders to demonstrate the federal commitment to combating hate crimes.
More than two hours after the shooting, Erica Pugh-Mathews was waiting outside the store behind police tape.
“We would like to know the status of my aunt, my mother’s sister. She was there with her fiancé, they broke up and went to different hallways,” she said. “A bullet barely hit him. He was able to hide in a freezer but he couldn’t get to my aunt and he doesn’t know where she is. We’d just like to know if she’s okay anyway.”