Chris Lange, FISM News
Investigators are seeking to determine whether authorities missed red flags left by the teenage gunman whom police say opened fire on several shoppers at a Buffalo, New York supermarket Saturday, killing 10 people and wounding three others.
Authorities say, Payton Gendron, 18, who is white, specifically targeted blacks in a racially-motivated attack the suspect live-streamed on the Twitch social media platform owned by Amazon. The company says it removed the post two minutes later.
The Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, where the deadly massacre took place, is in a predominantly black neighborhood.
“The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake this is an absolute racist hate crime that will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters on Sunday, Reuters reported.
Gendron surrendered to police after the shooting and was charged with first-degree murder, to which he pleaded not guilty. The charge carries a maximum term of life without parole.
As more details emerge about the teen’s disturbing behavior in high school and online, Gramaglia said authorities are trying to gain a better understanding of Gendron’s motives in the attack and have also begun focusing on what steps, if any, could have been taken to prevent the tragedy.
Prior to the deadly shooting spree, police said Gendron posted a lengthy manifesto online in which he detailed plans to target the Buffalo store located roughly 200 miles away from his home in Conklin, New York. Authorities say it appears that Gendron had been planning the attack for months, even making a prior “reconnaissance” trip to assess the site.
In the manifesto, Gendron identified himself as a white supremacist and wrote at length about his belief that white Americans are being replaced by other races.
He was arrested last June after he made what local law enforcement called a “generalized” threat at his high school, Gramaglia said, calling attention to what appear to have been obvious signs that Gendron was capable of committing violence.
Dressed in tactical gear, Gendron reportedly arrived at the Tops Friendly Market Saturday afternoon and proceeded to open fire on shoppers with a semi-automatic rifle, which he purchased legally, though he made illegal modifications to the firearm. Police who responded to the attack said they also found a rifle and a shotgun in Gendron’s car.
Gramaglia told ABC News on Monday morning that if Gendron had escaped, he would have continued his attack.
“He had plans to continue driving down Jefferson Ave. to shoot more black people … possibly go to another store (or) location,” Gramaglia said.
Eleven of the 13 shooting victims were black, including a retired police officer working as a security guard at the store who was among those killed in the attack
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden say they plan to visit Buffalo on Tuesday.
“A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” Biden said of the shooting in a statement. “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 continued, adding, “We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime and an act of “racially-motivated violent extremism” in a statement.