Ten people were killed and three more were wounded when a man opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, authorities said Saturday. Police said the shooter, who is now in custody, has been charged with murder in what officials are calling a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism.
“This was pure evil,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia. “This was a straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community.”
At approximately 2:30 p.m., an 18-year-old White man who is not from the area exited his vehicle at a Tops Friendly Market, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a news conference. The suspect was “very heavily armed” and had a tactical helmet and gear, Gramaglia said. Police said he also had a camera and was live-streaming the shooting.
The suspect shot four people in the parking lot, killing three, before entering the store, he said. Once he walked inside, he encountered a “beloved” retired Buffalo police officer working in the store as a security guard. The guard fired multiple shots that hit the suspect, but they did not impact him due to his tactical gear, Gramaglia said. The suspect then killed the guard, who has not been named.
The suspect eventually returned to the front of the store and encountered police, Gramaglia said. He put a gun to his neck when he saw police, but officers talked him into putting it down and surrendering, Gramaglia said. He was then taken into custody.
Two law enforcement sources identified the suspect to CBS News as Payton Gendron.
Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office, said the case is being considered a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism. Officials did not go into details about why they made that determination, but said evidence indicates some “racial animosity.”
“We will not stop until every lead is investigated, until every piece of evidence is analyzed, and until we understand how and why this horrible tragedy and crime occurred,” Belongia said.
A law enforcement source told CBS News that the suspect allegedly yelled racial slurs during the shooting. A source also said the gunman had a racial slur written on his weapon.
Officials said at the press conference that 11 of the 13 victims were African American. Four, including one of the dead, were store employees.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the shooting “absolutely devastating.”
“Hate and racism have no place in America,” he said in a statement. “We are shattered, extremely angered and praying for the victims’ families and loved ones, as well as the entire community.”
Authorities did not provide much information about the suspect. Though he lived “hours away” from the site of the shooting, he was a resident of New York, police said. A law enforcement source said the suspect is from Conklin, New York, which is approximately three and a half hours southeast of Buffalo. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the suspect is from Broome County, which includes Conklin.
Hochul also said Friday night that the suspect obtained his weapon legally, but made illegal modifications.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said the suspect has been arraigned on a charge of murder in the first degree, the most severe murder charge under New York law. The charge carries a sentence of life without parole.
Flynn said his office is now investigating potential terrorism charges and other murder charges. Belongia said the FBI is conducting an investigation that will run parallel to the state probe, and Hochul said the state’s Hate Crimes Task Force is also investigating.
At an earlier press conference, Flynn said the suspect, who allegedly used an assault weapon in the shooting, was not known to law enforcement.
Hochul, who is from Buffalo, said the state had offered assistance to local officials and asked people to stay away from the area. Speaking Saturday night, she called the suspect a white supremacist and said the shooting was an “act of terrorism.”
Hochul also called on social media platforms to be more vigilant in monitoring content. “The fact that this act of barbarism, this execution of innocent human beings could be live-streamed on social media platforms and not taken down within a second says to me that there is a responsibility out there,” Hochul said. “And we’re going to continue to work on this and make sure that those who provide these platforms have a moral and ethical and, I hope, to have a legal responsibility to ensure that such hate cannot populate these sites. Because this is the result.”
Police have not released any information about the victims, but New York State Senator Tim Kennedy said one of his staffer’s children was shot.
“Tonight, a member of my staff, my extended family, is at ECMC when she should be at home,” Kennedy said. “She’s sitting in a hospital waiting room, because her beautiful, extraordinary son was shot while he was simply doing his job.”
“To say that I’m heartbroken tonight doesn’t even do it justice. I’m devastated. I’m angry. And I’m thinking about the families who won’t welcome a loved one home tonight,” Kennedy added. “All because an individual filled with pure evil made a calculated decision to senselessly take innocent lives. Let us be clear: this was a hate crime and an act of terrorism on our community. It was racially motivated, extremism in its most pure form.”
Tops Friendly Markets said in a statement that it is “shocked and deeply saddened” by the shooting.
“Our top priority remains the health and well-being of our associates and customers,” the supermarket said. “We appreciate the quick response of local law enforcement and are providing all available resources to assist authorities in the ongoing investigation.”
The Buffalo incident is the latest high-profile mass shooting motivated by what authorities say is racial hatred. In 2020, the FBI elevated its assessment of the threat posed byin the U.S. to on par with the threat level posed to the country by foreign terrorist organizations. FBI director Christopher Wray told Congress in November 2019 that a majority of such attacks are “fueled by some type of white supremacy.”
Pat Milton and Andres Triay contributed reporting.