NEW YORK - The white gunman who attacked shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people and wounding three others has pleaded guilty to murder and hate-motivated terrorism charges. Most of the victims were Black.
The charges carry an automatic sentence of life in prison.
19-year-old Payton Gendron went into the Tops Friendly Market on May 14th wearing military gear and live streaming with a helmet camera opened fire.
The supermarket is in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Police said that Gendron researched the local demographics and arrived a day in advance to conduct reconnaissance with the intent of killing as many Black people as possible.
Among the dead was security guard Aaron Salter — a retired Buffalo police officer — who fired multiple shots at Gendron. A bullet hit the gunman’s armor but had no effect. Gendron then killed Salter, before hunting more victims.
"He’s a true hero," Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. "There could have been more victims if not for his actions."
Also killed was Ruth Whitfield, 86, the mother of retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.
Also killed was shopper Katherine Massey, whose sister, Barbara Massey, called her "a beautiful soul," and Haywood Patterson, who worked as a driver, giving people rides to and from Tops and helping them with groceries.
Patterson was loading an elderly woman’s groceries into his car when he was killed, friend Tony Sanders told The Buffalo News. Sanders said Patterson’s first name was Heyward, although a church bulletin listed him as Haywood. Sanders said Patterson was a deacon in his church and "my best friend."
77-year-old Pearly Young was also killed while shopping for groceries. "She loved singing, dancing, & being with family," the outlet reported. "Young ran a food pantry in the Central Park neighborhood for 25 years, feeding people every Saturday."
Andre Ellicott was someone who was always there for his family. He was visiting from out of town and had gone to Tops to pick up a cake as a birthday surprise for his grandson, according to his cousin, Clarissa Alston-McCutcheon.
The racially motivated attack came a year after Gendron was taken to a hospital by state police after making threats involving his high school, according to authorities.
He streamed the shooting on Twitch. Twitch said in a statement after the shooting that it ended the transmission "less than two minutes after the violence started."
New York State Police said troopers were called early in June 2021 to the high school then attended by the alleged gunman, Payton Gendron, for a report that a 17-year-old student had made threatening statements.
Gendron threatened to carry out a shooting at Susquehanna Valley High School, in Conklin, New York, around the time of graduation, a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly on the investigation.
The decision to reopen, rather than relocate, the store was met with mixed emotions in the East Buffalo neighborhood that, beset by high poverty, fought for years to get a grocery store. Since opening in 2003, the Tops location remains the only supermarket in the immediate area.
"The store is there for a reason. The store is still there for a reason," said Bishop, 58, who was on her way to work when the shooting happened and said she's still processing her near miss. "The people will come back. They might not come today or tomorrow, but they will come back."
With the Associated Press