By Christina Maxouris, Amir Vera, Chuck Johnston and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN
Authorities say the suspect who fatally shot 10 people and injured three others Saturday at a Buffalo supermarket in the heart of the city’s Black community traveled from another New York county hours away.
Thirteen people — 11 of whom were African American — were shot, with three suffering non-life-threatening injuries, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. Two victims were White, Gramaglia said.
“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 a Saturday 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.”
The suspect, Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, was charged with first-degree murder, Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah told CNN, adding the district attorney’s office is planning on indicting the suspect and bringing additional charges. Gendron pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The suspect first opened fire in the store’s parking lot and then moved inside, where he continued shooting before surrendering to police, Gramaglia said.
The FBI is investigating the shooting as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism, said Stephen Belongia, FBI special agent in charge of the Buffalo field office.
Here’s what we know about the shooting and the investigation.
Suspect livestreamed the violence
At about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, the suspect drove to the Tops Friendly Markets supermarket on Jefferson Avenue, got out of his vehicle and shot four people in the parking lot, Gramaglia said. Three of those people died while another is expected to survive, Gramaglia said.
“He was very heavily armed,” the commissioner said. “He had tactical gear, he had a tactical helmet on, he had a camera that he was livestreaming what he was doing.”
The suspect used an assault weapon, said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
In a 180-page manifesto allegedly written by the suspect, Gendron also allegedly wrote that he planned to livestream a video of the attack on the online platform Twitch.
Livestreaming platform Twitch confirmed Saturday the suspect used its platform to stream a live broadcast during the attack. Twitch said in a statement to CNN that the video was removed less than two minutes after the violence began.
The company said it was “devastated” to hear about the shooting and added the user “has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”
After shooting four people in the parking lot, the suspect went inside the store and began shooting customers. A security guard inside the store who was a retired Buffalo police officer shot the suspect. But because the suspect wore heavy armor, the bullets did not have any effect, Gramaglia said.
The suspect shot and killed the security guard and continued working his way through the store, the commissioner said. When police arrived, the suspect put his gun to his neck but later dropped the gun and took off some of his gear, he added.
He surrendered and was transported to Buffalo police headquarters.
Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia said the suspect is currently under suicide watch.
During his arrest, Gendron made very disturbing statements describing his motive and state of mind following his arrest, according to an official familiar with the investigation. The alleged shooter made it known he was targeting the Black community during the statements, according to the official.
Gramaglia said warrants are being obtained for suspect’s home, vehicle, social media platforms, computer, telephone, and any other digital technologies. Gramaglia said at this time, the investigation shows Gendron acted on his own in the shooting.
Investigators are looking into a manifesto
Investigators were reviewing a purported 180-page manifesto Saturday posted online in connection with the Buffalo mass shooting probe, two federal law enforcement officials told CNN.
The manifesto independently obtained by CNN shortly after the attack and before authorities released the name of the suspect, is allegedly written by a person claiming to be Payton Gendron confessing to the attack.
The manifesto’s author says he bought ammo for some time but didn’t get serious about planning the attack until January.
The manifesto’s author goes on about his perceptions about the dwindling size of the white population and claims of ethnic and cultural replacement of whites.
A portion of the document is written in question-and-answer form. The manifesto’s author attributes the internet for most of his beliefs, describes himself as a fascist, a white supremacist, and an anti-Semite.
Alongside tirades about his false belief that White Americans were being “replaced” by people of other races, the document included pages upon pages listing the equipment and clothing he planned to wear — from military-style body armor down to the brand of his underwear.
The document also included a minute-by-minute outline of the suspect’s plan. The author drew a color-coded map of the interior of the store, laying out how he planned to “shoot all black people.” It’s unclear how closely the gunman’s attack followed the plan listed in the manifesto.
Garcia, the Erie County sheriff, said the shooting was a “straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community.”
“This was pure evil,” the sheriff said.
The supermarket is located near the areas of Masten Park and Kingsley, which are predominantly Black neighborhoods.
“You have now a White … assailant in a (majority) Black community. Why did he choose this market?” CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem said.
When asked during Saturday’s news conference about why authorities are calling the mass shooting a hate crime, Flynn, the district attorney, said investigators have “certain pieces of evidence” that “indicate some racial animosity.”
“I’m not going to … elaborate on what exactly they are right now but we have evidence in custody right now that shows that there is some racial component,” Flynn said.
Further investigation this weekend also revealed Gendron made a “generalized threat” while he attended Susquehanna Valley Central High School in June 2021, Gramaglia said.
Additionally, Gramaglia said Gendron was in Buffalo on Friday and authorities have determined some locations he visited ahead of the shooting, adding he did some reconnaissance at the Tops Friendly Markets store.
Suspect was radicalized by message boards
In the manifesto, Gendron allegedly detailed how he had been radicalized by reading online message boards, while describing the attack as terrorism and himself as a White supremacist.
He wrote that he had “moved farther to the right” politically over the last three years.
The suspect started browsing the message board 4chan — a hotbed for racist, sexist and White nationalist content — in May 2020 “after extreme boredom” during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the manifesto. Posts he had read on the site made him believe “the White race is dying out,” among other racist beliefs, and led him down a rabbit hole to other extremist websites, the manifesto states.
The conspiracy theory of a “great replacement” has been a motivator of other violent attacks, experts in extremism have said. Some forms of the theory have more recently gone mainstream in conservative news outlets and politicians.
One day while browsing 4chan, Gendron allegedly saw a video clip of the gunman who killed 51 people in New Zealand at two mosques in 2019, according to the manifesto. That livestream “started everything you see here,” the manifesto states.
In addition to the New Zealand massacre, Gendron was allegedly inspired by other racist mass shooters, including Dylann Roof, the gunman who killed nine Black people at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015, and the assailant who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, according to the manifesto.
The document includes dozens of pages of racist and anti-Semitic screeds — including some language that appears to be copied from the New Zealand shooter’s own manifesto.
What we know about the victims
Of the 13 people shot, 11 are African American and two are White, said Gramaglia, the police commissioner.
Four of the people shot were store employees, he said. One, the security guard, was killed while the other three suffered “nonfatal wounds,” he said.
The families of all the victims have been notified, Gramaglia said in a news conference Sunday.
On Sunday, Buffalo’s mayor identified the security guard as Aaron Salter, telling CNN’s “New Day Weekend” he was a former Buffalo police lieutenant. He was well-respected throughout the police department, Mayor Brown said, and had worked at the supermarket for several years after retiring.
Salter, he said, “is a hero, who tried to protect people in the store, tried to save lives, and in the process, lost his own life.”
Another victim was identified as the mother of the city’s former fire commissioner, per Brown. She had gone to visit her husband in a nursing home, Brown told CNN, when she stopped to pick up a few items at the supermarket.
Authorities have not yet shared any further information, including the ages of the victims.
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CNN’s Casey Tolan, Artemis Moshtaghian, Shimon Prokupecz and Brian Stelter contributed to this report.