UPDATE 1-New York supermarket shooting probe to be weighed if warning signs missed
(Adds more comments from Buffalo Police Commissioner, statement from Attorney General, tweet from Cheney)
By Jenna Zucker
BUFFALO, NY, May 16 (Reuters) – An investigation into the weekend shooting of more than a dozen people at a supermarket in western New York will focus on Monday on whether authorities missed any telltale signs and red flags left by the teenage shooter before his racist behavior. murderous madness.
Authorities said 18-year-old Payton Gendron committed an act of ‘racially motivated violent extremism’ when he opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle Saturday at Buffalo’s Tops Friendly Market, where 11 of 13 were injured were black.
“The evidence we have uncovered so far leaves no doubt that this is an absolute racist hate crime that will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” the Buffalo Police Commissioner told reporters on Sunday. , Joseph Gramaglia.
In addition to seeking to better understand the motives behind Gendron’s attack, authorities will focus on what could have been done to stop him, as details of the teenager’s disturbing behavior in high school and his presence in line began to emerge.
Gendron was on local law enforcement’s radar last June when police arrested him after he made a “widespread” threat to his high school, Gramaglia said.
Given an assessment of his mental health at the time, he was released after a day and a half.
A 180-page manifesto that circulated online, believed to have been authored by Gendron, described the ‘Great Replacement Theory’, a racist conspiracy theory that claimed white people were being replaced by minorities in the United States. and elsewhere.
Another online document appears to have been authored by Gendron, outlining a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the weapon and testing the live stream he would use to relay it on social media. .
A spokesperson for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the documents.
Gendron turned himself in to police after the shooting and was charged with first-degree murder, which carries a maximum New York sentence of life in prison without parole, but he pleaded not guilty.
Authorities said Gendron had traveled to Buffalo from his home several hours a day before the attack to conduct a “reconnaissance” in the area.
On Saturday afternoon, he went to the grocery store, where he began the assault which he broadcast live on the social media platform Twitch, a live video service owned by Amazon.com.
Dressed in tactical gear, Gendron opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle he had purchased legally, but then modified illegally. In his car, authorities found two other firearms, a rifle and a shotgun.
Gramaglia told ABC News Monday morning that had Gendron escaped, he would have continued his attack.
“He intended to keep driving on Jefferson Ave. to shoot more black people … maybe go to another store (or) location,” Gramaglia said.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Buffalo on Tuesday, the White House said in a statement.
Speaking before a Sunday service at the Macedonian Baptist Church, Buffalo teenager Jaylah Bell told Reuters the shooting scared him to go to some places.
“It’s really telling,” the 14-year-old said, adding that he was down the street from the grocery store at the time of the shooting.
“I think I’m going to stay closer to my parents, rather than hanging out with my friends, just to feel safer.”
Every seat in the church was occupied as people gathered to support the families of the victims, with fans distributed to make up for the lack of air conditioning.
“We are not here for another ‘kumbaya’ moment,” Reverend Julian Cook told the congregation. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need sustained movements.”
At the nearby True Bethel Baptist Church, a crowd of worshipers held a mournful service, including a family member of the victims and others who were in the store at the time of the shooting.
Among them was Charles Everhart Sr., 65, whose grandson Zaire Goodman, 20, worked there.
“He was pushing the carts towards the store and he was one of the first to get hit,” Everhart said. Although he was shot in the neck, Goodman survived.
The Buffalo incident follows racially motivated mass murders in recent years, such as the March 2021 Atlanta spa shooting in which a white man killed eight people, targeting Asians, and an attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018 that left 11 people dead.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said over the weekend that the Justice Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.
On Monday, U.S. Representative Liz Cheney said on Twitter that House Republican leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism.
“History has taught us that what begins with words ends much worse,” she said in a tweet.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she was appalled the suspect managed to livestream his attack on social media, which she accused of harboring a ‘feeding frenzy’ of extremist ideology violent.
Social media and streaming platforms such as Twitch, which said it took down the live stream in two minutes, have struggled for years with the task of policing violent and extremist content.
“The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring any account reposting this content,” a Twitch spokesperson said.
(Reporting by Jenna Zucker in Buffalo, New York; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Kanishka Singh, Doina Chiacu, Sarah N. Lynch, Gabriella Borter, Ken Li and Tyler Clifford; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Clarence Fernandez and Chizu Nomiyama)