Buffalo mass murder suspect indicted by grand jury, prosecutor says

by mcardinal


A New York grand jury has indicted the 18-year-old white man accused of killing 10 people in a livestreamed shooting at a supermarket in a black neighborhood in Buffalo, prosecutors said on Thursday at a brief court hearing.

Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah adjourned the hearing after a few minutes and scheduled the suspect, Payton Gendron, to appear again on June 9. He will remain in custody without bond.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said the grand jury had not yet completed an investigation into whether prosecutors had enough evidence to bring Gendron to trial on more charges.

The defendant for now stands charged with a single count of first-degree murder in the shooting of 13 people – 11 of them black – at a Tops Friendly Markets store on Saturday afternoon. Gendron faces life in prison without parole if convicted on the murder charge.

Flynn said in a statement he would have no further comment on the case until the grand jury was done.

It was Gendron’s second court appearance since his arrest outside the supermarket on Saturday afternoon, when authorities said he opened fire with a semi-automatic, assault-style rifle.

He was escorted into the courtroom dressed in orange prison garb and with a white medical mask over his face. His hands were shackled and his head slightly bowed.

With relatives of some of the victims watching, someone in the courtroom gallery shouted, “Hey, you’re a coward!”

The rampage, which authorities said the gunman had carefully planned with an eye toward killing as many black people as he could, has touched a nerve in a country that has grown accustomed to mass shootings.

In the days since Saturday’s shooting, more details have emerged about what happened inside the store, located in an area of Buffalo where most of the residents are Black.

A 911 emergency dispatcher has been placed on administrative leave after officials determined her handling of a phone call from an employee inside the store during the shooting was “completely unacceptable,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a Wednesday news conference.

Latisha Rogers, an assistant office manager at the supermarket, told TV station WGRZ in Buffalo, that she called 911 and began whispering to the dispatcher. The dispatcher responded with a “very nasty tone,” telling her she could not hear her.

“Out of nervousness, my phone fell out of my hand, she said something I couldn’t make out, and then the phone hung up,” Rogers said.

The FBI said it was investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of “racially motivated violent extremism.” Authorities have pointed to a white supremacist diatribe he is suspected of posting online before the shooting.

New York state Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday opened an investigation into several social media platforms she said the Buffalo grocery store gunman used to plan, promote and broadcast the attack.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced additional measures aimed at curbing domestic terrorism, including legislation to tighten New York gun laws and a directive for state police to exercise their authority to disarm individuals deemed a public threat under the state’s red-flag law.

She accused social media sites of allowing violent extremism to flourish, and said the Buffalo shooting reflected an intersection between “the mainstreaming of hate speech … and the easy access to military-style weapons.”

Gendron is accused of webcasting video of the attack he was committing in real time on Twitch, a live video platform owned by Amazon.com Inc.

While Twitch said it took down the video within two minutes, screenshots from the broadcast circulated on social media throughout the day. Footage of the livestream could still be found on the internet as recently as Wednesday morning.

Twitch said on Thursday it was cooperating with the investigation.

Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters