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Federal hate crime charges filed against Buffalo mass shooting suspect

"I came here specifically to talk to the families"
Posted at 10:31 AM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 22:42:57-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Federal hate crime charges have been filed against the 18-year-old man accused of fatally shooting 10 people and injuring three others in the mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo on May 14.

The suspect, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, faces the following charges according to a criminal complaint:

  • Hate Crime Resulting in Death (10 counts)
  • Hate Crime Involving Bodily Injury and Attempt to Kill (3 counts)
  • Use of a Firearm to Commit Murder During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence (10 counts)
  • Use and Discharge of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence (3 counts)

The criminal complaint details the planning and preparation for the attack and the events that took place on the day of the shooting.

According to the criminal complaint, the alleged motive for the shooting "was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks."

tops site.jpeg
Outside the Tops on Jefferson Avenue.

The suspect allegedly fired approximately 60 shots during the attack and the rifle he used had various writings on it which included:

  • The names of others who have committed mass shootings
  • Racial slurs
  • The statement “Here’s your reparations!”
  • The phrase “The Great Replacement.”

The criminal complaint says a federal search warrant was executed at the suspect's home the day after the shooting and a handwritten note was recovered in which the suspect apologized to his family for committing “this attack” and that he “had to commit this attack” because he cares “for the future of the white race.”

According to the criminal complaint, the suspect wrote a self-described manifesto that contained a detailed plan of the attack. In the manifesto, the suspect allegedly wrote that he was targeting the 14208 area code because of the percentage of Black people that live there and its proximity to where he lives. He also allegedly wrote that he chose the Tops location because it is where a high percentage and density of Black people can be found.

“It alleges that he selected a target in this zip code because it has the highest percentage of Black people close enough to where he lives,” explained Merrick Garland, U.S. Attorney General.

Merrick Garland, U.S. Attorney General, appeared at Jefferson Avenue site.

Garland appeared in Buffalo Wednesday to meet with the victims' families.

Garland first walked down Jefferson Avenue to the Tops site and placed a bouquet of flowers at the memorial for the 10 victims killed at the Tops store on May 14TH.

The criminal complaint also says the suspect allegedly went to Tops several times prior to the attack. At least three times on March 8, once on May 13, and about two-and-a-half hours before the attack on May 14.

Garland appeared with other federal leaders including U.S. Attorney for the Western District Trini Ross inside the Apollo Theater on Jefferson Avenue.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District Trini Ross stands with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“As alleged in the complaint, the defendant spent months planning and arming himself for an attack that would target Black residents of Jefferson Avenue,” Ross noted.

Garland says the complaint outlines how the defendant prepared for months to carry out the vicious attack.

“The affidavit alleges that he repeatedly targeted, shot, and killed Black people. At one point, he aimed his rifle at a white male Tops employee who had been shot in the leg and injured — instead of shooting the white employee the gunman apologized to him before continuing his attack,” remarked Garland.

An indictment is a next step. Garland says the federal charges make the shooter eligible for the death penalty, but could not elaborate.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland held a news conference at the Apollo Theater Wednesday.

“And in particular, it involves discussion which the U.S. Attorney will have with the families and survivors soon and that's really all I can say at this point,” replied Garland.

Family members of the victims held a private meeting with the Garland but details of that conversation are remaining private.

“I came here specifically to talk to the families — to express our support and our deepest sympathy to what happened to them and to tell them exactly what we are charging in the complaint. Out of respect for their privacy, I think I shouldn't share any more than that,” responded Garland.

Former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, whose mother Ruth was killed, says he is “glad” there is a federal complaint.

ormer Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, whose mother Ruth was killed.

“We’re glad that there’s a complaint. It’s not finalized yet, but we're glad this process is started,” Whitfield noted.

Whitfield and his brother Raymond say Garland's visit offered a more important conversation about stopping white supremacy.

“We want justice. We want equity. We want to be treated like human beings and that's what we want — not just for us — for our mother — for all of us as Americans — these people were Americans. They weren't just Black — they were Americans,” Whitfield remarked.

Raymond Whitfield, whose mother Ruth was killed.

“So no — it doesn't stop with the justice for our mother and the other nine victims. It's how we prevent things from happening — these horrific crimes from happening in other communities,” Raymond Whitfield stated.

The FBI says the investigation is active and ongoing with "no stone unturned".

Garland is scheduled for an initial appearance in federal court Thursday morning.

The suspect was arraigned on a grand jury indictment on June 1 in Erie County Court. The grand jury indictment includes a domestic act of terrorism charge and 24 other charges. He faces life without parole if found guilty on the highest charge.