A heavily armed 18-year-old white man shot 10 dead people on Saturday at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in a “racially motivated” attack that he streamed live on camera, authorities said.
The gunman, who wore bulletproof vests and a helmet, was arrested after the massacre, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a news conference.
Gramaglia put the toll at 10 dead and three wounded. Eleven of the victims were African Americans.
The gunman shot four people in the Tops supermarket parking lot, three of them to death, then entered and continued shooting, Gramaglia said.
Among those killed inside the shop was a retired police officer who worked as an armed security guard.
The guard “involved the suspect, fired more shots,” but the gunman shot him, Gramaglia said.
He added that when the police arrived, the shooter pointed the gun to his neck but was discouraged and gave up.
Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office, told the press conference that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
“We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racist violent extremism,” said Belongia.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described the attack as “pure evil”.
“It was a racially motivated hate crime by someone outside our community,” he said.
Asked what information led authorities to call the attack a hate crime, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he had evidence pointing to “racial animosity,” but declined to elaborate.
US media reported that officials are investigating a detailed “poster” posted online before the shooting, in which the suspect outlines his plans and racial motives for the attack.
Citing the manifesto, The New York Times reported that the suspicion was “inspired” by acts of violence by white supremacists, including the massacre of 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019.
A semi-automatic weapon used in Saturday’s shooting also had a racial epithet written on it as well as the number 14 – a reference to a sentence from the white supremacist – according to local newspaper The Buffalo News, citing a local official.
District Attorney Flynn said at the press conference that the shooter used an “assault weapon” – a term that can be applied to rifle and rifle types in New York – but did not specify which type.
Flynn’s office said in a tweet Saturday night that the suspect – identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York – had been charged with first-degree murder, which carries an unconditional life sentence. He is being held without bail.
Asked at the previous press conference whether the killer could be sentenced to death at the federal level, US Attorney for the Western District of New York, Trini Ross, said, “All options are on the table as we move forward with the investigation. “
‘Day of great pain’
Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo – located in western New York State along the US border with Canada – said the killer “traveled outside this community for hours to perpetrate this. crime”.
“This is a day of great pain for our community,” Brown said.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said US President Joe Biden was informed of the “horrific shooting”.
In a statement, Biden thanked the police and first responders and denounced the attack.
“Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senior United States Senator from New York, said in a tweet: “We are on the side of the people of Buffalo.”
New York governor Kathy Hochul described the murders as a “horrific white supremacist shooting” in a tweet that also praised the grocery store security guard as “a true hero.”
A spokesperson for the Twitch streaming service confirmed to AFP that the killer used the service to broadcast the attack.
“We investigated and confirmed that we removed the stream less than two minutes after the violence began,” the spokesperson said, adding, “We are taking all appropriate measures, including monitoring any accounts that retransmit this content.”
Wave of armed violence
The Buffalo shooting follows other recent cases of racially motivated mass killings in the United States.
In 2019, a white gunman traveled for hours through the state of Texas and killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, where the vast majority of the population is Hispanic.
Four years earlier, in Charleston, South Carolina, a white man opened fire in an African American church, killing nine people.
Either way, the men posted hateful posters online ahead of their shooting rampages.
Despite recurring mass shootings and a wave of nationwide gun violence, numerous initiatives to reform gun regulations have failed in the US Congress, leaving states and local councils to enact their own restrictions.
The United States suffered 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, nearly 35 percent more than in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest data.