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Buffalo grocery store shooting: 10 dead in racially charged attack on Tops Friendly Markets store, police say

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BUFFALO Ten people were killed in a Saturday afternoon mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store in what law enforcement officials described as a racially motivated hate crime.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters that a heavily armed 18-year-old white man walked into the store in a predominantly black neighborhood and shot and killed 13 people, including a security guard.

The suspect, Payton Gendron, surrendered to police and was charged with first degree murder. Gendron pleaded not guilty and was held without bond.

Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office, said law enforcement officials are investigating the shooting as a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism. Gramaglia said 11 of the 13 people shot were black.

Gramaglia added that the shooter, who was wearing tactical gear, used a camera to broadcast the attack live and shot several victims in the parking lot before entering the store.

The grocery store’s longtime security guard returned fire, but the shooter’s body armor repelled the shot and the guard was killed in the encounter, Gramaglia said. He called the security guard a hero. Four of those killed were store employees and six were customers, law enforcement officials said.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said some evidence pointed to racial animosity on the part of the suspect, but he declined to elaborate.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the suspected shooter was not from town. Brown said it was a day of great pain for our community.

Rep. Brian Higgins (DN.Y.) called the event a terrible tragedy for the city. He said the shooting was part of a national problem: When you have assault rifles in the possession of the wrong people, these kinds of things happen.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D), a native of the Buffalo area, wrote that she was watching the shooting closely. Hochul planned to arrive in the city shortly, Brown said.

The Tops Friendly Markets store, which is located in a low-income neighborhood in Buffalo, is a popular outlet serving many nearby residents. It is located near several colleges, including Canisius College and Buffalo State College, as well as a number of churches. The supermarket is about 10 minutes from Buffalo’s Canalside neighborhood, popular with locals and visitors alike.

Saturday’s shooting echoes the March 2021 mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in which 10 people, including a police officer, were killed at a King Soopers grocery store.

Kathy Sautter, spokeswoman for Tops Friendly Markets, said the company was shocked and deeply saddened by the senseless act of violence. She said Tops appreciates the quick response from law enforcement and is providing all available resources to help with the investigation.

Eyewitnesses described a scene of terror. Grady Lewis was outside the store and said he saw a white man equipped for war, wearing military-style fatigues and holding a gun in his hands. He said he couldn’t believe what was happening before his eyes.

Lewis said the man opened fire, pointing the gun left and right as he fired indiscriminately at people. Lewis heard more than two dozen gunshots as the man entered the grocery store, he said.

A worker who identified himself as Will G. told the Buffalo News that he had gone into a cooler to store milk minutes before the shooting. As gunshots rang out, he joined other people hiding in the cooler.

I just heard gunshots. Blows and blows and blows, he told the News. It looked like things were falling apart.

He added, I hid. I just hid. I wasn’t going to leave this room.

Lewis said shortly after the shooter entered the store, he came out and held the gun to his chin as if to pull the trigger. Surrounded by police, he instead dropped the gun, removed his body armor and knelt on the ground, Lewis said.

It was amazing, he said. I mean you could get robbed here, but people don’t really shoot people here.

Philip Washington works across the street at Loves Barbershop and came out when he heard gunshots. He said he saw the shooter surrender to police outside the store, and there were bodies lying all around him. Washington said one of the women killed saved the lives of her cousins.

Daniel Love, 24, the owner of the barbershop, said that every day for about a week, the alleged shooter sat outside the Loves store and pretended to use the wireless internet.

Braedyn Kephart, 20, a student at Erie Community College, said she and her boyfriend, Shayne Hill, also 20, pulled into Tops’ parking lot to pick up an Instacart order on Saturday afternoon when they saw a young white man in full military gear standing outside the store, pointing an assault rifle to his chin.

We looked over and saw him standing there with the gun to his chin, and I was thinking, Why does this kid have a gun? Then I heard screams, Kephart said. Police told the couple to stay in the car for their safety.

As Kephart and Hill watched from their car, they could see the suspect fall to his knees and surrender to police, who arrested him. Other eyewitnesses said he was laughing during his arrest, she said.

I’m pretty shaken up. My mind is blown by all that has happened, she said.

People who know the suspect were shocked to learn he allegedly carried out a mass shooting. Gendron grew up in Conklin, a New York City over 200 miles from Buffalo near the town of Binghamton.

Neighbor Russell McNulty said he last saw Gendron at his high school graduation party a year ago. They smoked a cigarette outside together and talked about what the young man wanted for his future.

Oh my God, we were at the graduation party, McNulty gasped after learning what had happened. He looked like a normal guy.

Joly reported from Buffalo. Libby March in Buffalo contributed reporting, along with Marisa Iati, Meryl Kornfield, Arelis R. Hernndez and Annie Gowen.

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2/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/05/14/buffalo-shooting-grocery-store-tops/

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