Buffalo supermarket gunman charged with federal hate crimes

By CAROLYN THOMPSON
Associated press

BUFFALO, NY (AP) — The white gunman who killed 10 black people in a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket was charged Wednesday with federal hate crimes and could face the death penalty if convicted.

The criminal complaint filed Wednesday against Payton Gendron coincided with a visit to Buffalo by Attorney General Merrick Garland. The attorney general was to respond to federal charges and meet with the families of those killed.

Garland placed a bouquet of white flowers tied with a yellow ribbon at a memorial to the victims outside the store, which has been closed since the attack.

Gendron was already facing a mandatory life sentence without parole if convicted of state charges previously filed during the May 14 rampage at Tops Friendly Market.

The federal hate crimes case rests in part on documents in which Gendron lays out his radical, racist worldview and extensive preparation for the attack, some of which he posted online shortly before he began shooting .

FBI agents executing a search warrant at Gendron’s home the day after the shooting found a note in which he apologized to his family for the shooting and said he “had to do this attack” because he cares “about the future of the white race,” according to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint.

Officers at the Conklin, New York, home also found a receipt for a candy bar purchased from the supermarket on March 8, the day Gendron said in an online journal that he had gone to scout the store, along with hand drawn sketch of store layout. , says the affidavit.

The affidavit also includes detailed accounts of Gendron’s plot to attack the store, which he documented in detail in an online journal, and of the attack itself, which he broadcast live on the networks. social.

In his writings, Gendron adopted a baseless conspiracy theory about a plot to diminish the power of white Americans and “replace” them with people of color, through immigration and other means.

The messages detail months of reconnaissance, demographic research and gunnery training for a bloodbath aimed at scaring everyone who is not white and Christian out of the country.

Gendron traveled more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) from his home in an almost all-white town near the New York-Pennsylvania border to a predominantly black part of Buffalo. There, authorities said, he fired about 60 shots at shoppers and workers using an AR-15-style rifle, wearing a body armor for protection and live-streaming the carnage to from a camera mounted on a helmet.

Three wounded – one black, two white – survived the attack.

Gendron’s rifle bore writing, including the names of others who committed mass shootings, racial slurs and statements such as “Here are your repairs!”, and a reference to the replacement theory, according to the affidavit.

The 18-year-old surrendered to police as he left the supermarket.

He pleaded not guilty to a charge of domestic terrorism, including hate-motivated domestic terrorism and murder.

The case is likely to present a dilemma for Garland, who has vowed to aggressively prioritize the prosecution of civil rights cases but also instituted a moratorium on federal executions last year after an unprecedented string of capital punishments. at the end of the Trump administration.

The moratorium put in place in July 2021 prevents the Bureau of Prisons from carrying out any executions. But the memo does not bar federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, a decision that will ultimately be up to Garland. The Biden administration previously asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the Boston Marathon suicide bomber’s original death sentence.

Federal executions have been halted as the Justice Department conducts a review of its capital punishment policies and procedures. The review, which is ongoing, comes after 13 people were executed at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, between July 2020 and January 2021.

President Joe Biden has said he opposes the death penalty and his team has vowed he will take action to stop its use while in office.

Ten days after the Buffalo attack, another 18-year-old armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two teachers.

Soon after, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed 10 public safety-related bills into law, including one banning New Yorkers under 21 from buying semi-automatic rifles and another that Revised the state’s “Red Flag” law, which allows courts to temporarily remove firearms from people who may pose a threat to themselves or others.

The U.S. Senate followed on June 12 with a bipartisan agreement on more modest federal gun restrictions and increased efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.

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AP reporter Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.