Accused in Buffalo mass shooting that left 10 dead had previous run-in with police

The white 18-year-old charged with killing 10 people at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket had researched the demographics of the area and arrived a day before to conduct reconnaissance with the "express purpose" of killing Black people, officials said Sunday.

Investigators believe neighbourhood with large Black population was targeted on purpose

Ten dead in Buffalo mass shooting police call racially motivated hate crime

1 year ago
Duration 6:28
WARNING: This video contains distressing details. A white 18-year-old wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, killing 10 people and wounding three others Saturday.

The white 18-year-old charged in the shooting deaths of 10 people at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket had researched the demographics of the area and arrived a day before to conduct reconnaissance with the "express purpose" of killing Black people, officials said Sunday.

The chilling revelation prompted grief and anger in the predominantly Black neighbourhood around Tops Friendly Market, where a group of people gathered to lead chants of "Black lives matter" and mourn victims. They included an 86-year-old woman who had just visited her husband in a nursing home and a security guard who fired multiple shots at the suspect.

"Somebody filled his heart so full of hate that he would destroy and devastate our community," Rev. Denise Walden-Glenn said.

The accused, identified as Payton Gendron, had travelled about 320 kilometres from his home in Conklin, N.Y., to Buffalo.

"It seems that he had come here to scope out the area, to do a little reconnaissance work on the area before he carried out his just evil, sickening act," Buffalo police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.

Earlier on Sunday, Gramaglia told ABC the accused had been in town "at least the day before."

Police said 11 Black people and two white people were shot Saturday in the rampage, which was broadcast live online before he surrendered to authorities. Ten people died.

The accused pleaded not guilty Saturday.

On Sunday, officials and family members confirmed the identities of some of the victims. They included several shoppers, as well as the grocery store's security guard.

FBI investigating motive

Federal agents interviewed the accused's parents and served multiple search warrants, a law enforcement official said on Sunday.

Authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page manifesto that was posted online, which detailed the plot and identified the accused by name as the gunman, the official said. 

Mourners gather for a vigil on Sunday for victims of the shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

A preliminary investigation found the accused had repeatedly visited sites espousing white supremacist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories, and extensively researched the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the man who killed dozens at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, the official said.

The accused had previously threatened a shooting at his high school, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

New York State Police said troopers were called to the Conklin school on June 8, 2021, for a report that a 17-year-old student had made threatening statements.

The gunman was taken to a hospital by police for a mental health evaluation, but wasn't charged with a crime and released from hospital within a day and a half. 

The revelation raised questions about his access to weapons and whether he could have been under closer supervision by law enforcement.

WATCH | 'We have to do better,' N.Y. congressman says after Buffalo mass shooting

'We have to do better,' N.Y. congressman says after Buffalo mass shooting

1 year ago
Duration 5:10
New York Rep. Brian Higgins says more needs to be done after a racially motivated mass shooting by a white gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others in Buffalo on Saturday.

Federal law bars people from owning a gun if a judge has determined they have a "mental defect" or they have been forced into a mental institution — but an evaluation alone would not trigger the prohibition.

Livestream of shooting soon cut off

Twitch said in a statement that it ended the gunman's transmission "less than two minutes after the violence started."

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, demanded technology companies to tell her whether they've done "everything humanly possible" to make sure they are monitoring violent content as soon as it appears.

"If not, then I'm going to hold you responsible," she said.

A mourner crouches by flowers and candles during a Sunday vigil for the victims. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Portions of the Twitch video circulating online showed a gunman firing volley after volley of shots in less than a minute as he raced through the parking lot and then the store, pausing for just a moment to reload. At one point, he trains his weapon on a white person cowering behind a checkout counter, but says "Sorry!" and doesn't shoot.

Screenshots purporting to be from the Twitch broadcast appear to show a racial epithet scrawled on the rifle used in the attack, as well as the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.

The accused, confronted by police in the store's vestibule, put a rifle to his neck but was convinced to drop it. He was arraigned later Saturday on a murder charge, appearing before a judge in a paper gown. Erie County district attorney John Flynn said the investigation is ongoing and indicated that more charges are expected."

Community reeling

The shooting — the latest act of mass violence in a country unsettled by racial tensions, gun violence and a recent spate of hate crimes — left local residents shattered.

People embrace at the scene on Sunday. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

"It's just too much. I'm trying to bear witness but it's just too much. You can't even go to the damn store in peace," Buffalo resident Yvonne Woodard told the AP. "It's just crazy."

Speaking at the National Peace Officers' Memorial service at the U.S. Capitol, President Joe Biden said "we must all work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America."

"We pray for their families. But after we pray — after we get up off of our knees — we've got to demand change. We've got to demand justice," state Attorney General Letitia James said at an emotional church service in Buffalo on Sunday morning. "This was domestic terrorism, plain and simple."

With a file from CBC News