BUFFALO, New York (AFP) — A heavily armed 18-year-old white man shot 10 people dead on Saturday at a Buffalo, New York grocery store in a “racially motivated” attack that he live-streamed on camera, authorities said.
The gunman, who was wearing body armor and a helmet, was arrested after the massacre, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news conference. Gramaglia put the toll at 10 dead and three wounded. Eleven of the victims were African Americans.
The gunman shot four people in the parking lot of the Tops supermarket, three of them fatally, then went inside and continued firing, Gramaglia said. Among those killed inside the store was a retired police officer working as an armed security guard.
The guard “engaged the suspect, fired multiple shots,” but the gunman shot him, Gramaglia said. He added that when police arrived, the shooter put the gun to his neck, but was talked down and surrendered.
Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office, told the news conference that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described the attack as pure evil. “It was straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community,” he said.
US media outlets have reported officials are investigating a detailed “manifesto” posted online before the shooting, in which the suspect outlined his plans and racial motivations for the attack.
Quoting from the manifesto, the New York Times reported the suspect had been “inspired” by white supremacist acts of violence, including the massacre of 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019.
A semi-automatic weapon used in Saturday’s shooting also had a racial epithet written on it as well as the number 14 — a reference to a white supremacist phrase — according to local daily The Buffalo News, citing a local official.
District Attorney Flynn said in the press conference that the shooter used an “assault weapon” — a term that can apply to types of rifles and shotguns in New York — but did not specify which kind.
Flynn’s office said in a tweet Saturday night that the suspect — identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York — had been arraigned on a charge of first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life without parole. He is being held without bail.
Asked during the earlier press conference if the shooter could face the death penalty at the federal level, the US attorney for the Western District of New York, Trini Ross, said: “All options are on the table as we go forward with the investigation.”
In another incident of mass shootings, the Milwaukee Bucks canceled a game seven watch party at their Fiserv Forum outdoor plaza on Sunday after 20 people were wounded in shootings outside the arena on Friday.
In a statement on Saturday, the Bucks called the shootings “horrific,” adding that the team condemns “this devastating violence.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, citing law enforcement sources, said none of those hurt appeared to face life-threatening injuries.
On Friday, some 11,000 people were in the area for such a watch party, and the first shooting came near the packed district shortly after the Bucks fell to the Celtics in game six of the series inside the arena.
Police said the victims included two men, aged 26 and 29, and a 16-year-old girl, and all three are expected to survive their injuries.
“There was a 19-year-old male taken into custody in connection with this incident,” Milwaukee Police Captain Warren Allen told CNN.
Dramatic video showed frightened people streaming from the crowded area. Some two hours later, another 17 people were wounded in another shooting several blocks away.
Allen said the victims ranged in age from 15 to 47.
Police arrested a total of 10 people in connection with the second incident and recovered nine firearms, local television station WTMJ-TV reported.
Authorities did not immediately address what sparked the incidents and whether they were linked.