Updated: May 15, 8 p.m. ET
The victims of the attack, which Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described as “pure evil,” include Aaron Salter, 55, a retired Buffalo police officer who worked as a security guard at the at the Tops Friendly Market where the attack occurred.
On Sunday, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia called Salter “a hero,” and said he confronted and shot the gunman during the melee, but the gunman was wearing body armor. “We don’t know what he prevented,” Gramaglia said of Salter on ABC’s “This Week.”
“There could have been more victims if not for his actions.”
Those killed in the shooting rampage are:
- Roberta Drury, 31
- Margus D. Morrison, 52
- Andre Mackneil, 53
- Geraldine Talley, 62
- Celeste Chaney, 65
- Heyward Patterson, 68
- Katherine Massey, 72
- Pearl Young, 77
- Ruth Whitfield, 86
The gunman — identified as 18-year-old Payton Gendron from Conklin, New York — was wearing military-style clothing, body armor and a helmet and was armed with a high-powered rifle. He had apparently traveled more than 200 miles to attack the supermarket, located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven out of the 13 people shot were Black, officials said, while the other two were white.
“The shooter was not from this community,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Saturday. “In fact, the shooter traveled hours from outside this community to perpetrate this crime on the people of Buffalo.”
Gendron pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and was ordered held without bail in a brief arraignment Saturday night. The next court proceeding is set for Thursday, May 19.
The Associated Press reported that the supermarket is located in a predominately black neighborhood outside downtown Buffalo. Three of the victims were shot and killed in the parking lot outside the store, the Buffalo News reported, before Gendron entered Tops and opened fire. After exiting the supermarket, he encountered officers.
When police arrived, Gendron first threatened to shoot himself. “He was standing there in his military gear with his weapon to his chin, looking like he was going to blow his head off,” witness Braedyn Kaphart told the Buffalo News. “We weren’t sure what was happening. As he continued to do that, he dropped to his knees still appearing as if he might shoot himself.” Police ultimately handcuffed Gendron and was being questioned by FBI as of Saturday night.
Gendron allegedly published an 180-page manifesto online that is ugly and unhinged, even for a suspected mass murderer. In it, he talks about becoming radicalized after reading a 4chan forum in his “extreme boredom” during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I was not born racist nor grew up to be racist. I simply became racist after I learned the truth.”
The document touts earlier racist rampage killings, and pushes the conspiracy theory that white people are facing extinction and are being “replaced” by immigrants and people of color. It’s a baseless notion that’s been widely promoted on the far-right fringes, from the neo-Nazi marchers of Charlottesville to the Fox News broadcasts of Tucker Carlson.
Authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of the document on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
“This was pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said at a press conference. “It was [a] straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community … coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us.”
“Our hearts are with the community and all who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “Hate and racism have no place in America. We are shattered, extremely angered and praying for the victims’ families and loved ones.”
“I am closely monitoring the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, tweeted Saturday. “We have offered assistance to local officials. If you are in Buffalo, please avoid the area and follow guidance from law enforcement and local officials.
— Eileen Buckley (@eileenwkbw) May 14, 2022
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Buffalo on Tuesday the White House said on Sunday.
“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,” Biden said in a statement released Saturday night. “Hate must have no safe harbor.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is investigating the attack as a hate crime “and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.”
On Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris called Saturday’s mass shooting part of an “epidemic of hate across our country that has been evidenced by acts of violence and intolerance. We must call it out and condemn it.”
Tops Friendly Markets said in a statement, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
According to Twitch, Gendron live-streamed the mass shooting on the platform — police said that he had a camera affixed to his helmet during the attack — and left behind a “manifesto” touting white supremacist conspiracy theories. Buffalo police did not confirm those reports, but said they were investigating to see if the attack was racially motivated. Twitch said in a statement that Gendron’s alleged “user” account has been suspended, and that they’re working to ensure the livestream isn’t rebroadcast.
“Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents,” the company said.
Both The Associated Press and Buffalo News report that Gendron was previously investigated in June 2021 over threats he made to fellow students at a Broome County high school. “A school official reported that this very troubled young man had made statements indicating that he wanted to do a shooting, either at a graduation ceremony, or sometime after,” a law enforcement official told the Buffalo News. State Police investigated the threat and referred Gendron to a mental health evaluation and counseling.
The Buffalo shooting is the latest racially motivated mass killing inspired by white supremacy theories. In November 2018, 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers entered Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, killing 11 people. In March 2019, Brenton Tarrant visited two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, gunning down 51 people and injuring 40 more. Like Gendron, Tarrant livestreamed the massacre and wrote a white supremacy-themed manifesto. The 74-page document was called The Great Replacement, a reference to the right-wing conspiracy theory that non-European populations are replacing white people. Five months later, a 21-year-old far-right gunman named Patrick Wood Crusius killed 23 people and injured 23 more at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Among the “deplorable” set — those for whom this “great replacement theory” has true cultural currency —Saturday’s mass shooting is drawing a mix of defensiveness, denial and deflection.
Nick Fuentes — the young white supremacist who bemoans “white genocide”; leads the Groyper movement online; and organizes the annual America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) — took to his Telegram channel as news of the killings broke to immediately (and without evidence) insisted it was a “false flag” attack.
Laura Loomer — the alt-right troll who is running for congress from Florida — first tenuously tried to link the shooting to current abortion politics, writing on Telegram, “Planned Parenthood has still targeted and killed more black people than the Buffalo supermarket shooter. Facts matter.”
In a later post, Loomer, who is Jewish, then attempted to grapple with the shooter’s apparent anti-semitism: “Anyone who hates Jews just to hate Jews is stupid and low IQ,” she wrote. “There is no reason to blindly hate Jews.” With that disclaimer out of the way, Loomer then launched into a defense of the great-replacement panic that allegedly motivated the shooter. “Being worried about replacement theory is also not a radical stance,” Loomer wrote, insisting: “The war on White people is VERY REAL.”
VDARE, the virulently anti-immigrant outfit designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, didn’t directly respond to the shooting, but posted to its Telegram account an article plainly intended as deflection, headlined: “Whites Responsible For Less Than 3% Of All Mass Shootings In 2022 So Far—But Black Attacks Skyrocket,” replete with a picture of Brooklyn subway shooting suspect Frank James.