Buffalo supermarket gunman indicted on terror, hate charge
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The white 18-year-old man accused of fatally shooting 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket was charged Wednesday by a grand jury with domestic terrorism motivated by hate and 10 counts of first-degree murder.
Payton Gendron, who has been in custody since the May 14 shooting, is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Erie County Court.
The 25-count indictment also contains charges of murder and attempted murder as a hate crime and weapons possession.
Gendron had previously been charged with a single count of first-degree murder in the shooting, which also injured three people. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors told a judge May 20 the grand jury had voted to indict Gendron but did not disclose charges, saying proceedings were ongoing.
The domestic terrorism charge accuses Gendron of killing “because of the perceived race and/or color” of his victims.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the domestic terrorism hate crime law in August 2019, in the wake of a mass shooting targeting Mexicans at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. The measure, dubbed the “Josef Neumann Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act” after an attack at a rabbi’s home in Munsey, New York, was signed into law on April 3, 2020, and took effect Nov. 1, 2020.
The charge, Domestic Acts of Terrorism Motivated by Hate in the First Degree, is punishable with a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Murder charges were filed for each of the victims, who ranged in age from 32 to 86 and included eight shoppers, the store security guard and a church deacon who drove shoppers to and from the store with their groceries.
Buffalo attorney John Elmore, who represents the families of victims Katherine “Kat” Massey, 72, and Andre Mackniel, 53, said he hoped for a conviction on every count.
“This man was motivated by hate against people he never met for no reason other than the color of their skin,” Elmore said.
The gunman, carrying an AR-15-style rifle he had recently purchased, opened fire on Saturday afternoon shoppers at the only supermarket in the predominantly Black neighborhood.
The shooting, followed 10 days later by a mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers inside a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, has renewed a national debate about gun control and violent extremism.
Mackniel was in the store to buy a birthday cake for his 3-year-old. Massey was a community activist who had championed gun control and fought against racism, Elmore said.
“To have her life taken away by a white supremacist extremist at the hands of a weapon of mass destruction is extremely upsetting to me,” he said. He is part of a team of attorneys exploring potential legal action against the manufacturers of the weapon and body armor used by the gunman, as well as social media platforms.
The attack was livestreamed from a helmet-mounted camera.
“Somehow we’re going to find justice for the Massey family, for the Mackniel family and all those others that were affected by this tragedy,” Elmore said.
Federal authorities also are investigating the possibility of hate crime charges against Gendron, who apparently detailed his plans and his racist motivation in hundreds of pages of writings he posted online shortly before the shooting.
Gendron drove about three hours from his home in Conklin, New York, intending to kill as many Black people as possible, investigators have said.
Amanda Drury, who lost her 32-year-old sister, Roberta Drury, said she is leaving it to the legal system to say what charges are appropriate in the case.
“I’m going to continue with my trust in the justice system,” she said.
Gendron’s attorney, Brian Parker, said he had not seen the indictment and could not comment, adding that prosecution and defense attorneys have been barred by a judge from discussing the case publicly.
Associated Press writers Michael Sisak and Jennifer Peltz contributed from New York.
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