By Travis Caldwell, CNN
An 18-year-old who allegedly wrote a White supremacist manifesto traveled from hours away to a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, and opened fire in a supermarket Saturday, killing 10 people and wounding three, authorities said.
Eleven of the people who were shot at the Tops Friendly Markets store were Black, and authorities say they believe the mass shooting was racially motivated. The victims included a former Buffalo police lieutenant working as a security guard and the mother of Buffalo’s retired fire commissioner, Mayor Byron Brown said.
The shooting was a “straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community,” Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia said Saturday. “This was pure evil.”
Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, a spokesman for Erie County Medical Center told CNN Saturday night, and a third person wounded was discharged.
The heavily armed suspect, Payton S. Gendron, eventually surrendered to police and was taken into custody. He had been livestreaming as he carried out the shooting, police said.
Gendron was charged with first-degree murder, prosecutors said, and he pleaded not guilty in court Saturday night, Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah told CNN.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the AR-15 used in the shooting was purchased legally in a gun store in New York state but was illegally modified with a high-capacity magazine.
“What has made this so lethal, and so devastating for this community, was the high-capacity magazine that would have had to have been purchased elsewhere, that’s not legal in the state of New York,” she said.
Hochul also told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the suspect was “on the radar” of law enforcement.
“Just as a high school student with respect to something he wrote in high school and was under surveillance at the time with medical authorities,” she said. “But I’m going to be investigating that very question, George. I want to know what people knew, and when they knew it, and calling upon our law enforcement as well as our social media platforms.”
The US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism,” according to a statement from US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The attack was the deadliest mass shooting of the year. There have been at least 198 mass shootings so far this year in the US, per the Gun Violence Archive, which like CNN defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, not including the shooter. Consistent data about the state of gun violence is difficult to come by, leaving organizations such as the Gun Violence Archive to fill in the gaps.
How the shooting unfolded
At around 2:30 p.m., the suspect — who hails from the town of Conklin, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Buffalo — drove to Tops Friendly Markets near the areas of Masten Park and Kingsley, which are predominantly Black neighborhoods, authorities said.
Wearing tactical gear and armed with an assault weapon, the suspect allegedly shot and killed three people in the parking lot and wounded a fourth, according to a statement from Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
The suspect then entered the store and exchanged gunfire with an armed security guard who was a retired member of the Buffalo Police Department, the district attorney said. The guard was identified as Aaron Salter, Mayor Brown said.
Because the suspect wore heavy tactical gear, however, the guard’s bullets did not have any effect, Gramaglia said Saturday.
“He was very heavily armed,” the police commissioner said. “He had tactical gear, he had a tactical helmet on, he had a camera that he was livestreaming what he was doing.”
Inside the store, nine people were shot before the suspect was apprehended by police, with the guard and six others dying from their wounds, according to the district attorney’s statement.
In a statement sent to CNN, livestreaming service Twitch confirmed the shooting was streamed and said the user “has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”
CNN obtained a portion of the livestream that showed the suspect arriving at the supermarket in his vehicle. CNN is not airing the video.
Grady Lewis said he was outside the supermarket when he heard seven or eight gunshots and saw a White man dressed in tactical gear spraying gunfire at the entry of the store. Law enforcement arrived within two minutes after the shooting began, Lewis told CNN affiliate WKBW. He “heard at least 20 or so shots” before the suspect exited the store.
“He came out, he put the gun to his head, to his chin. Then he dropped it and took off his bulletproof vest, then got on his hands and knees and put his hands behind his back,” Lewis said, describing the moments the suspect was arrested by police. “I thought they were going to shoot him but they didn’t shoot him.”
“I still don’t even believe it happened … that a person would go into a supermarket full of people,” he said. “It was horrible, it was really horrible.”
Purported manifesto details racist motives
Following the shooting, investigators obtained “certain pieces of evidence” that “indicate some racial animosity” from the suspect, Flynn said during a Saturday news conference.
“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.
Investigators are reviewing a 180-page purported manifesto that was posted online in connection with the shooting, two federal law enforcement sources told CNN.
The manifesto, independently obtained by CNN shortly after the attack and before authorities released the suspect’s name, 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 author goes on about his perceptions of the dwindling size of the White population and claims of ethnic and cultural replacement of Whites, and describes himself as a fascist, a White supremacist and an anti-Semite.
President Joe Biden condemned the shooting in a statement Saturday night and said he is grieving for the families of those lost.
“We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement does its work, 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. “Hate must have no safe harbor.”
“This is the worst nightmare that any community can face and we are hurting and we are seething right now as a community,” Brown said. “The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
Speaking to the suspected motive of the shooting, Darius G. Pridgen — the president of Buffalo’s City Council and the senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church — told CNN’s Pamela Brown he hopes it is understood that race relations in the city do not have to be frayed and that the shooting was the act of an “evil” individual from outside the community.
“The same way I don’t want to see Black people painted with a broad brush if we have one Black person (do wrong), they say, ‘Oh, those Black folks.’ So at the end of the day, I don’t want to see the same thing happen in our community with Black and White relations,” Pridgen said.
“This was not a White man from Buffalo. This was a White person who was evil, so I don’t want to see all White people painted and to have a tension between Black and White because of the individual who should serve his time.”
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CNN’s Samantha Beech, Tina Burnside, Haley Burton, Gregory Clary, Phil Gast, Sarah Jorgensen, Jamiel Lynch, Christina Maxouris, Artemis Moshtaghian, Sharif Paget, Shimon Prokupecz, Sabrina Shulman, Brian Stelter and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.