By Faith Karimi, CNN
Dominique Calhoun and her daughters were picking up ice cream at the Tops Friendly Markets supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on a spring Saturday afternoon. They’d just pulled into the parking lot, ready to step out, when the horror began to unfold.
“People started screaming and running out of the Tops parking lot, so we backed up and pulled (out) and parked right across in the Family Dollar parking lot,” Calhoun told CNN affiliate Spectrum News 1 Buffalo.
“And that’s when I got out and seen all the bodies that were laying in the front. People were crying, people were running out, people were trying to see if their loved ones were inside, the officers were pulling up, firetrucks, ambulances, and it was just a horrible situation.”
At around 2:30 p.m., a gunman wearing tactical gear and armed with “an assault weapon” shot and killed three people in the parking lot and wounded a fourth, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said.
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 guard’s bullet had no effect because of the suspect’s heavy tactical gear, Flynn said.
Ten people were dead and three others wounded at the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in the state’s second most-populous city. Eleven of the victims were Black.
Authorities identified the suspect as Payton S. Gendron, an 18-year-old White man from Conklin, New York. He had allegedly traveled about 200 miles to the store and livestreamed the attack.
The alleged gunman told authorities he was targeting the Black community, according to an official familiar with the investigation. He made disturbing statements describing his motive and state of mind following his arrest, the official said.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday the attack was a racist hate crime and will be prosecuted as such.
Investigators believe the gunman acted on his own and was in Buffalo a day before the shooting to do some reconnaissance at the Tops store, Gramaglia said.
Authorities also uncovered other information indicating the alleged shooter was “studying” previous hate attacks and shootings, an official familiar with the investigation said.
The gunman crouched ‘army style’ as he shot at people, witness says
Calhoun was one of several witnesses who described the terror and mayhem during the mass shooting.
Grady Lewis had shopped at the store and was taking a sip of his juice outside when he heard seven or eight gunshots.
“I knew it was … a gunshot and not a fire cracker. So I looked up and I seen smoke … and a guy in a full army suit shooting at people,” he said.
Lewis said the gunman crouched “army style … just shooting at people,” and he saw injured victims in the parking lot. “I didn’t have my phone on me and I was just screaming for somebody to call the police. I still don’t even believe it happened,” he said.
Law enforcement arrived two minutes after the shooting began, Lewis said, and the suspect surrendered.
“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 arrest. “I thought they were going to shoot him but they didn’t shoot him.”
The suspect surrendered to police and was taken into custody. He was charged with first-degree murder Saturday, prosecutors said, and pleaded not guilty.
“I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m mad, because I never thought it would’ve happened here in the city of Buffalo,” resident Liz Bosley told Spectrum News. “I know we have a lot of killing, but I never would’ve thought we would have a massacre … up here in Buffalo.”
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CNN’s Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.