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BUFFALO, NY – A mass shooting that took place in a Buffalo, New York supermarket Saturday afternoon left 10 dead and another three wounded, with the teenaged suspect – whose actions police say were racially motivated – currently in custody.
Payton Gendron of Conklin, 18, arrived at a Tops supermarket around 2:30 p.m. heavily armed and wearing body armor, a helmet, and military fatigues, according to officials. He initially shot four people in the parking lot before proceeding inside and continued his hate-filled rampage, having carved the names of previous mass shooters – in addition to racial slurs – into the gun he used to carry out the slayings.
While carrying out his shootings, Gendron himself was shot by Aaron Salter Jr., a retired Buffalo police officer who was employed by the supermarket as a security officer. However, the gunman was not harmed due to his body armor and continued his attack, which authorities say he livestreamed on social media; the platform he used was not revealed.
In all, Gendron fired 50 rounds, leaving 10 dead – all Black people – and three wounded – one Black, two White – in what police said was a “racially motivated hate crime” that specifically targeted Blacks.
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The victims ranged in age from 32 to 86 and were a mixture of store employees and customers, cops say. Aaron Salter Jr., the security guard who bravely shot Gendron, was among those killed.
Police quickly responded to the reports of the shooting, and when officers confronted Gendron the teen placed the barrel of his Bushmaster XM-15 assault-style rifle to his chin and threatened to commit suicide; however, officers managed to talk the suspect down and take him into custody, according to Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.
“He had dropped down to his knees and began taking off his tactical gear and they immediately took him into custody,” he said.
Gendron is currently being held in isolation and is under suicide watch, according to officials. The suspect is believed to have acted alone, with Gramaglia saying that it is believed “this is an absolute racist hate crime.”
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn noted that Gendron is currently being held without bail after being arraigned on Saturday on one count of first-degree murder; the DA’s office is also considering multiple other charges, including terrorism.
Investigators said that Gendron had traveled to the supermarket previously to conduct “reconnaissance” before carrying out the attack. The rifle that he used, police say, was legally purchased, and the suspect was in possession of a pistol, a shotgun, and multiple spare clips of ammunition.
Despite the rifle being legally purchased, officials say that the suspect had modified the rifle to accept “enhanced magazines,” which is against New York State law.
In addition to charges issued by local authorities, the FBI is also separately investigating the attack as a hate crime. Early evidence uncovered by police indicates that Gendron possessed extremist and racist beliefs, which he would often post about on the internet.
Among the content believed to have been posted by the suspect online included a 180-page document shortly before he allegedly carried out the shooting that centered on the concept of “replacement theory,” a belief some white supremacists hold that minority races will eventually replace White people in the United States.
Gendron’s document also contains numerous racist and anti-Semitic tropes, according to Erie County Sheriff John Garcia.
“This was pure evil,” he said. “It was a straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community…coming into our community and trying to inflict evil upon us.”
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