A gunman embracing a white supremacist ideology opened fire yesterday afternoon at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, killing 10 people and wounding three more. The mass shooting was the deadliest in the United States this year and among a spate of racist attacks in recent years.
The suspect, Payton S. Gendron, 18, had driven more than 200 miles to stage the attack, and he livestreamed it as he fired at shoppers and store employees. He was arrested at the store and pleaded not guilty in a brief court appearance.
Around the same time, a manifesto attributed to him appeared online, repeatedly invoking the racist idea that white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color. The view is known as “replacement theory” and was once linked to the far-right fringe, but it has become increasingly mainstream.
Among the victims were a security guard and an 86-year-old mother of four who had stopped at the store on her way home from visiting her husband at the nursing home where he lives.
How the shooting unfolded
Around 2:30 pm, as shoppers filled the Tops supermarket, the suspect arrived wearing body armor, tactical gear and a helmet with a video camera attached. He carried an assault rifle with an anti-Black slur written on the barrel and began firing in the parking lot. Three victims were killed outside, and one was wounded.
Then the suspect went inside the store to continue his attack, briefly exchanging fire with the security guard before killing him. He went on to stalk victims throughout the store; “Bodies were everywhere,” one witness said.
Shonnell Harris, a store manager, told The Buffalo News that she heard an estimated 70 shots and ran through the Tops, repeatedly falling down before escaping out back.
The gunman eventually returned to the front of the store. By then, the police had arrived, and he briefly put a gun to his neck before he began removing tactical gear as a form of surrender and the police tackled him.
Of the 13 people who were shot, 11 were Black and two were white. Four worked at the Tops grocery. Few have been publicly identified.
The security guard who was killed was a former police officer – “a hero in our eyes,” said Joseph A. Gramaglia, the Buffalo police commissioner.
Ruth Whitfield, 86, was a mother of four and “a mother to the motherless,” her son told The News. Her husband had moved into a nursing home years ago and she still visited every day. She had just visited him when she stopped at Tops to get something to eat, WGRZ reported.
The attack appeared to be inspired by earlier mass shootings motivated by racial hatred, including a 2019 mosque shooting in New Zealand and a massacre at a Texas Walmart that same year, according to the manifesto.
In chilling detail, the document outlined a plan to kill as many Black people as possible, including the type of gun to use, a timeline, a specific parking spot and where to eat ahead of time.
Gendron wrote that he chose the area of the supermarket because it was home to the largest percentage of Black residents near his home in New York’s largely white Southern Tier. The police had surrounded his home outside Binghamton, NY, overnight.
“It was a straight up racially motivated hate crime,” said John Garcia, the local sheriff.
Federal law enforcement officials said they were investigating the shooting as a hate crime. The next court proceeding was set for Thursday.
The Ukraine War
Other Big Stories
The Sunday question: Are high prices here to stay?
Supply-chain issues and consumer demand for goods seem to be easing, says Bloomberg Opinion’s Conor Sen, and interest-rate hikes will help slow inflation. But Harvard’s Jason Furman notes that price increases are spreading to services like restaurant dining and could stay high for a while.
Advice from Wirecutter: Do not use too much dish soap.