Buffalo supermarket mass shooting: Here's what we know so far

WATCH: Buffalo shooting was "act of domestic terrorism," attorney of victim’s family says.

A deadly shooting in Buffalo, New York, that ended in the deaths of 10 people and three injured is being investigated as a federal hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism.

Saturday’s shooting at a supermarket was carried out by a white teenager. All but two of the victims were Black.

Here is what we know so far.

A white 18-year-old, Payton Gendron, wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera, opened fire Saturday afternoon at Tops Friendly Market.

The first 911 call came in a 2:30 p.m. local time, police said. Patrol officers were on the scene within a minute.

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The gunman livestreamed the shooting to a small audience on Twitch for several minutes before the platform cut the feed.

Twitch said in a statement that it ended Gendron’s transmission “less than two minutes after the violence started.”

Screenshots purporting to be from the live Twitch broadcast appear to show a racial epithet scrawled on the rifle used in the attack, as well as the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.

According to police, the gunman began shooting in the parking lot, then moved inside the store. Security guard Aaron Salter fired multiple shots but none penetrated the gunman’s armour. The gunman killed Salter and then stalked through the aisles, shooting shoppers.

When police confronted the gunman in the store’s vestibule, he put his rifle to his own neck but surrendered and dropped the gun after coaxing from the officers.

“They talked him down and it was a pretty one-sided fight with the armour that he had,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters on Sunday.

He was then taken into police custody with no further shots fired. The gunman acted alone, according to police.

“At this point, the investigation is showing that he did this by himself,” Gramaglia said.

“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.”

Authorities’ investigation will seek to better understand the motives of the attack and will also focus on what could have been done to stop Gendron.

The shooting happened on Jefferson Avenue in a predominantly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo, N.Y. Tops is the only supermarket on the east side of Buffalo. The area is home to a number of Black-owned businesses, including Golden Cup Coffee, the Challenger newspaper and the Apollo Theatre.

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“We’ve got tons of things in this little area that are supposed to be for us, by us — Black-owned — including this supermarket,” said Myles Carter, a community activist.

“This was an attack on all of us,” he told Global News.

U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit Buffalo on Tuesday, the White House said in a statement.

 

Police have identified the gunman as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York, a small town about 320 kilometres southeast of Buffalo, not far from the Pennsylvania state line.

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Officials said the rifle Gendron used in the attack was purchased legally but the magazines he used for ammunition were not allowed to be sold in New York. In his car, authorities found two other guns, a rifle and a shotgun.

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.

A 180-page manifesto allegedly made by Gendron and circulated widely online seemingly outlines the gunman’s racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic beliefs. Among them was a desire to drive all people not of European descent from the U.S., as well as a theory that minorities are replacing the U.S.’s white population. The document seemed to draw inspiration from the gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

Another document circulating online that appeared to have been written by Gendron sketched out a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the gun and testing the livestream.

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A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sunday that Gedron had threatened to carry out a shooting last year at Susquehanna Valley High School around the time of graduation. He was 17 years old at the time and was sent for mental health treatment. The law enforcement official was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and did so on the condition of anonymity.

Given a mental health evaluation at the time, he was released after one and a half days.

In a Sunday interview with ABC, Gramaglia said that Gendron had been in town “at least the day before.”

“It seems that he had come here to scope out the area, to do a little reconnaissance work on the area before he carried out his just evil, sickening act,” Gramaglia said.

Investigators believe Gendron specifically researched the demographics of the population around the supermarket.

Police released the names of the victims late Sunday. They say all but one of the people killed was over age 50. Eleven people struck by gunfire were Black and two were white, officials said. The racial breakdown of the 10 dead was not made clear.

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Among the deceased is Aaron Salter, who was working as a security guard at the store and was also a retired Buffalo police officer. According to officials, Salter was a hero in the community who saved lives by running toward danger as he fired multiple shots at the shooter, striking him at least once.

“There could have been more victims if not for his actions,” Gramaglia said Sunday.

Salter “cared about the community. He looked after the store,” local resident Yvette Mack said. She remembered him as someone who “let us know if we was right or wrong.”

Mack would walk to the store to play lottery numbers and shop. She said she spoke to Salter shortly before the shooting.

Eighty-six-year-old Ruth Elizabeth Whitfield was picking up groceries at Tops after visiting her husband at a nursing home when she was killed.

Her son, retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, told The Buffalo News that she was “a mother to the motherless” and “a blessing to all of us.” Her strength and commitment to her family can be attributed to her strong religious faith, her son said.

Whitfield’s family has retained nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump.

“Yesterday, we witnessed the deadliest mass shooting of 2022, perpetrated by a self-proclaimed white supremacist who set out to do one thing: kill Black people,” Crump said in a release sent to Global News.

“Ruth, a beloved wife, mother and grandmother was the primary caretaker of her husband and was coming back from visiting him at a nursing home when this sick, depraved individual brutally murdered her at the grocery store,” he said.

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“We are thoroughly investigating the shooting and the events leading up to it. These grieving families deserve to know how a white supremacist, so vocal about his hatred, was able to carry out a premeditated and targeted act of terrorism against Black people — all while armed with an assault rifle fitted with a high-capacity magazine. It’s an all-too-familiar scenario, with the same tragic, but preventable ending. We will get answers for these families, and we will hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable.”

Also among the deceased was Katherine Massey, who shopping with her sister, Barbara Massey. Barbara described her as a “beautiful soul.” Katherine, 72, was an advocate for the Black community in Buffalo, according to the Buffalo News, to which she frequently wrote letters, including one last year arguing for more federal action and legislation to address gun violence.

The dead also included 53-year-old Andre Mackneil, of Auburn, N.Y. Mackneil was in town visiting relatives and was picking up a surprise birthday cake for his grandson.

“He never came out with the cake,” said Clarissa Alston-McCutcheon, the victim’s cousin.

Heyward Patterson, a 67-year-old deacon at a nearby church, also died in the shooting. He stopped by the church’s soup kitchen before heading to the supermarket to offer an informal taxi service to drive people home with their shopping bags.

“From what I understand, he was assisting somebody putting their groceries in their car when he was shot and killed,” said Pastor Russell Bell of State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ.

Patterson would clean the church and do anything else that was needed, according to Bell.

“He would meet my wife and I at the door and escort us to the office. We never required him or asked him to do it. He just did it out of love,” Bell said.

Services went on as usual Sunday but it was difficult.

“It was quite a struggle, we had to get through it and our hearts are broken,” he said. “Deacon Patterson was a man who loved people. He loved the community just as much as he loved the church,” he said.

Roberta Drury had recently returned home to live with her mother, Dezzelynn McDuffie, who told The Buffalo News that the 32-year-old — the youngest of the people slain — had walked to Tops to pick up some groceries Saturday afternoon.

Soon, McDuffie saw horrifying videos circulating on social media that appeared to show the gunman shooting her daughter just outside the store.

Among the injured was 20-year-old Zaire Goodman. Goodman, who is the son of a staffer to State Sen. Tim Kennedy, was shot in the neck but is recovering.

“I’m devastated. I’m angry,” Kennedy said. “And I’m thinking about the families who won’t welcome a loved one home tonight.”

Mourners gathered at churches in Buffalo Sunday, including at the Macedonia Baptist Church, where every seat was taken. Before the service there, Buffalo teenager Jaylah Bell told Reuters that the shooting has left him scared to go to certain places.

“This is really eye-opening,” the 14-year-old said. He was down the street of the grocery store at the time of the shooting.

“I think I’ll stay closer to my parents, rather than hang out with my friends, just to feel extra safe.”

“We are not here for another ‘kumbaya’ moment,” Rev. Julian Cook told the congregation. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need sustainable movements.”

U.S. officials have reacted to the shooting, with New York Governor Kathy Hochul saying she was dismayed that the shooting was able to be livestreamed on social media, which she said hosts a “feeding frenzy” of violent, extremist ideology.

“The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts re-broadcasting this content,” a Twitch spokesperson said.

U.S. Representative Liz Cheney tweeted on Monday that House Republican leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism.

“History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse,” she said.

— With files from Global News’ Sean O’Shea, The Associated Press and Reuters

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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