BUFFALO – Vigils and prayers services were being held across the city Sunday after authorities said a teenage gunman, wearing tactical gear and a livestreaming camera, killed 10 people and wounded three more in a hate-fueled shooting rampage at a busy supermarket.
Eleven of the 13 people who were shot were Black, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. The suspect, who was taken into custody at the scene, is white. The FBI is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and racially-motivated violent extremism.
“This is the worst nightmare that any community can face, and we are hurting and we are seething right now,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference. “The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
The equity advocacy group Voice Buffalo planned a vigil near the shooting scene Sunday morning.
“Please join us this morning as we start the grieving process to lead into the healing process,” the group said on Facebook. “All are welcome in this space.”
WHAT WE KNOW:10 dead, 3 injured in Buffalo store shooting
Here’s what we know:
Gunman was armed with an assault-style rifle
The suspect, identified by authorities as Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York, traveled several hours across the state to carry out the attack, authorities said.
Gramaglia got Gendron, armed with an assault-style rifle, arrived at the Tops Friendly Markets around 2:30 pm Saturday. Four people were shot in the parking lot, three of whom died at the scene. After Gendron entered the store, “they began engaging customers inside,” Gramaglia said.
The online platform Twitch said in a statement that it ended the livestream “less than two minutes after the violence started.”
Jennifer Tooke said she was walking through the store when she heard gunshots.
“I ran through the deli and ran out the back door to get away from him,” she said. “When I came out here I just (saw) bodies laying in front of the store.”
BUFFALO SHOOTING:Gov. Kathy Hochul blames ‘white supremacist’
She circled back to the parking lot, where she saw several bodies on the ground in front of the store. She retrieved her phone from her car and called her cousin, who was also inside the store when gunfire erupted. Her cousin hid in a freezer and was not injected, she said. The pair reconnected outside.
“It was scary,” Tookes said, adding that the store was crowded at the time and that others ran out the back door as well. “A lot of people got away, thank God.”
She said she didn’t see the shooter, but when she heard the shots she “just started running.”
Security guard who confronted shooter among victims
A retired Buffalo police officer working in the store as a security guard confronted the shooter and shot him. Those bullets struck the attacker’s tactical vest, preventing injury, Gramaglia said. The gunman returned fire and fatally shot the guard.
The shooter “worked his way through the store” firing at others, and in the store’s lobby was confronted by Buffalo police, police said. The suspect pointed his own gun at his neck and police convinced him to drop the gun and surrender.
Authorities say the suspect live-streamed the attack on social media. Footage shows the gunman, dressed in military gear, pulling up to the front of the store with a rifle on the front seat, then pointing the rifle at people in the parking lot as he exited the vehicle, opened fire and entered the store.
Hochul describes shooter as ‘white supremacist’
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the gunman a “white supremacist” who terrorized New York’s second-largest city in a “cold-hearted,” “military-style execution” as people were buying groceries.
“It strikes us in our very hearts to know that there’s such an evil that lurks out there,” she said. “This individual – this white supremacist – who just perpetrated a hate crime on an innocent community, will spend the rest of his days behind bars. And heaven help him in the next world as well.”
President Joe Biden was briefed on the attack and was praying for those affected, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the shooting “absolutely devastating.”
“Our hearts are with the community and all who have been affected by this terrible tragedy. Hate and racism have no place in America. We are shattered, extremely angered and praying for the victims’ families and loved ones, “he added in a statement.
The suspect carried an assault weapon inscribed with a racial epithet, said US Rep. Brian Higgins, citing briefings with law enforcement officials.
In the past year, FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly warned of the threat posed by racially motivated violent extremists, telling Congress that such cases represent the “biggest chunk” of the bureau’s domestic terrorism investigations. The same group, Wray told a Senate committee last year, were responsible for the most lethal attacks in the past decade.
Suspect’s lawyer seeks a psychiatric exam for client
Gendron was arraigned Saturday evening before Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah is one count of first-degree murder. Officials said they will weigh additional charges in the coming days.
Gendron’s attorney, Brian Parker, requested that his client undergo a psychiatric examination. Hannah ordered that Gendron be held without bail. He will return to court for a felony hearing Thursday morning.
John Flynn, Erie County’s district attorney, said the suspect would face a variety of charges, including hate crime charges.
Hochul said she had directed the state’s Hate Crime Task Force to begin an investigation.
Gendron may also face federal charges.
“We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism,” said Stephen Belongia, special agent of charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office.
Gendron graduated from Susquehanna Valley High School in Conklin, about 10 miles southeast of Binghamton near the New York-Pennsylvania border. He had been a student at SUNY Broome Community College.
Contributing: Christal Hayes, Kevin Johnson and Claire Thornton, USA TODAY, Sean Lahman, Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle