At least 10 people were killed at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket when a "heavily armed" gunman carrying an assault-style weapon opened fire on store employees and customers Saturday afternoon, in what city and federal officials are calling a racially motivated hate crime.
The suspect was identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, about 200 miles southeast of Buffalo in New York state, law enforcement officials said. He was being questioned Saturday evening by the FBI; a senior law enforcement official said his distraught parents were cooperating with authorities.
He was swiftly arraigned Saturday night on first-degree murder charges and remanded, Buffalo authorities said; the judge ordered a forensic examination.
The shooter drove to the Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue around 2:30 p.m., exiting his vehicle dressed in armored tactical gear and a helmet outfitted with a camera he used to livestream his movements, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.
The gunman first opened fire in the parking lot, killing three people and injuring a fourth, Gramaglia said. Then he allegedly moved into the supermarket where a security guard on duty exchanged gunfire with the 18-year-old suspect. The senior official said the gunman was armed with a semiautomatic rifle, a hunting rifle and a shotgun, all recently purchased legally.
The security guard, a retired Buffalo police officer, was shot and killed before the shooter moved further into the store, firing on customers and store employees, the commissioner said. Six people, including the guard, died inside the store.
Officials said responding police met the shooter at the front of the store and talked him into dropping his firearm and surrendering.
ECMC Hospital in Buffalo said it was treating three victims and all were stabilized. One patient was discharged Saturday night, the hospital said.
Police officials at a press conference said 11 of the 13 victims were Black.
Among the dead was Ruth Whitfield, the 86-year-old mother of a retired Buffalo fire commissioner.
“My mother was a mother to the motherless. She was a blessing to all of us,” former Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield told the Buffalo News.
Additional information about the victims has not been released.
The local FBI office is investigating the case as a hate crime and a tragedy of "racially motivated violent extremism" and called the case the new No. 1 priority of the Justice Department.
The suspected gunman, a white man accused of driving more than three hours to the predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo where the store is located, may have posted a manifesto online, police sources said.
A clip apparently from his Twitch feed, posted on social media, showed the 18-year-old arriving at the supermarket in his car. Twitch said in a statement that it ended the shooters transmission “less than two minutes after the violence started.”
"What started out as a beautiful day in the city of Buffalo has turned into a terrible day," Mayor Byron Brown said. "This is the worst nightmare that any community can face."
President Joe Biden released a statement late Saturday offering prayers for victims' families, thanking first responders and calling for action "to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism."
"Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America," he said in the statement, acknowledging law enforcement is still working to confirm the motivations behind the shooting. "Hate must have no safe harbor."
Governor Points Finger at Social Media
Gov. Kathy Hochul, at a news conference late Saturday night, directed her most intense ire at social media companies, saying they should be working harder to monitor and moderate hate content.
"The social media platforms that profit from their existence need to be responsible for monitoring and having surveillance, knowing that they can be, in a sense, an accomplice to a crime like this. Perhaps not legally, but morally - they've created the platform for this hate to be spewed," Hochul said.
The supermarket is in a predominantly Black neighborhood, about 3 miles north of downtown Buffalo. The surrounding area is primarily residential, with a Family Dollar store and fire station near the store.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," a statement from a Tops Friendly Markets spokesperson said. "We appreciate the quick response of local law enforcement and are providing all available resources to assist authorities in the ongoing investigation.”
People in the immediate vicinity were asked to avoid the store while police investigate.
Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, pulled into the parking lot just as the shooter was exiting. They described him as a white male in his late teens or early 20s sporting a full camouflage outfit, a black helmet and what appeared to be a rifle.
“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like what the heck is going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face?” Kephart said. "He dropped to his knees. He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun, and was tackled by the police.”
Photos: Supermarket Mass Shooting in Buffalo, NY
Police closed off the block, lined by spectators, and yellow police tape surrounded the full parking lot. Mayor Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz were at the scene late Saturday afternoon, gathered in a parking lot across the street from the Tops store and were expected to address the media.
Buffalo Shooter Manifesto
The shooter appears to have posted an apparent manifesto online late Thursday night, according to NBC News, with details of a planned crime that match exactly Saturday's shooting. It shows a shared birth date and biographical details in common with the suspect.
A senior law enforcement official told NBC News they were aware of the document and were working to confirm the author.
The virulently racist and antisemitic tract makes clear the gunman targeted Buffalo because of the size of the city's Black population. It adopts the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that falsely alleges Jews are working to replace white Americans with people of color.
In the document, the author claims that he was radicalized on an extremist 4chan forum while he was “bored” at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. It also makes frequently nods to the white supremacist who killed 51 people in New Zealand in 2019.