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Accused Tops shooter was cleared in a psychiatric evaluation in June 2021, says Broome County DA

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Posted at 4:10 PM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 10:37:25-04

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (WKBW) — The man accused of murdering 10 people in a Tops grocery store on Saturday was cleared of a mental health evaluation last June, according to the Broome County District Attorney.

"This defendant had been interviewed by a mental health professional, who deemed him to be not dangerous or not at risk of harming himself or others at that particular time," said District Attorney Michael Korchak.

The evaluation was prompted by "disturbing comments" Payton Gendron, then 17-years-old, made about murder and suicide during an online class, according to Korchak.

"A teacher responded to that, followed up with the defendant, trying to get clarification, and he indicated he was just joking and said LOL," said Korchak.

During a press conference Wednesday, Korchak says the teacher reported Gendron to Susquehanna Valley High School officials, and New York State Police went to his home, where Gendron reiterated he was joking.

NYSP brought the defendant to Binghamton General Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, and he was released a short time later.

ABC News reports that in the summer of 2021, Gendron was posting on message threads about body armor on the social media platform Discord.

Korchak defended the work of mental health professionals, State Police, and school officials, saying "they don't have a crystal ball."

He then explained that New York's Red Flag Law, which gives courts the ability to temporarily remove guns from people deemed dangerous, would not have been effective last summer, since the mental health professional did not deem him a risk to himself or others at that time.

In the same news conference, Korchak was asked by a reporter whether he believes the mass shooting in Buffalo on May 14th was an act of domestic terrorism. Korchak wavered in his response, and would not definitively declare the massacre as an act of domestic terrorism.

"I'm from downstate, terrorism is flying planes into buildings. This is just murder as far as I'm concerned," said Kochak. "It is terrorism, because you're terrorizing the community and it was racially motivated, we believe at this point in time. But from the DA's perspective, crime is crime."