By Artemis Moshtaghian, Emma Tucker, Shimon Prokupecz and Samantha Beech, CNN
Ten people were killed in a racially motivated mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday by a suspect in tactical gear who was livestreaming the attack, law enforcement officials said during a news conference.
The shooting occurred Saturday afternoon at a Tops Friendly Markets store. The suspect in the shooting, a White male, is in custody, police said. He was identified as Payton Gendron, 18, and pleaded not guilty to the first degree murder charge brought against him in court Saturday night, Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah tells CNN.
Thirteen were shot in the attack and 10 have died. Of those shot, 11 were Black and two were White, officials said. Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, a spokesperson for Erie County Medical Center told CNN.
Saturday’s massacre in Buffalo is the latest high-profile mass shooting in which authorities have said the suspect was motivated by hate, including attacks at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
The US Department of Justice is investigating the mass shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism,” according to a statement from US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“The Justice Department is committed to conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation into this shooting and to seeking justice for these innocent victims,” the statement said.
The FBI is assisting in the investigation, Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI Buffalo field office, said at the news conference.
The suspect drove to Buffalo to the Tops market heavily armed, wearing tactical gear, and had a camera where he was livestreaming what he was doing, said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.
Investigators are reviewing a purported manifesto posted online in connection with the mass shooting, two federal law enforcement officials told CNN.
‘This is the worst nightmare’
CNN has obtained a portion of the livestream taken from the point of view of the shooter as he’s driving into the supermarket’s parking lot. The shooter, who is seen in the rearview mirror wearing a helmet is heard saying, “Just got to go for it” before he pulls into the front of the store.
In the video, store patrons can be seen walking through the parking lot as the suspect drives up.
The suspect then shot four people in the store’s parking lot, Gramaglia said. Three of those individuals died and one survived, Gramaglia said.
He then walked into the market and began shooting at customers in the store, Gramaglia said.
A supermarket security guard, a retired Buffalo Police officer, “fired multiple shots at the suspect,” but the suspect’s tactical gear protected him from the officer’s shots, Gramaglia said.
The suspect fatally shot the security officer and continued going through the supermarket, working toward the front of the store, where he encountered Buffalo police officers.
The suspect put his gun to his own neck, at which point two Buffalo officers talked him into dropping his gun and then took off some of his tactical gear and surrendered to police, officials said. Police arrested the suspect and transported him to Buffalo police headquarters.
“This is the worst nightmare that any community can face, and we are hurting and we are seething right now as a community,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. “The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
Tops Friendly Markets released a statement following the shooting, saying it’s “shocked and deeply saddened.”
“We appreciate the quick response by local law enforcement and are providing all available resources to assist authorities in the ongoing investigation,” the statement said.
Twitch, the popular livestreaming platform best known for gaming, confirmed Saturday the suspect had used its platform to stream a live broadcast during the attack. The suspect has been “indefinitely suspended” from the platform. A spokesperson for Twitch said the company removed the livestream less than two minutes after the violence started.
Buffalo joins growing list of hate-fueled shootings
The Tops supermarket targeted in Saturday’s attack is located near the areas of Masten Park and Kingsley in the heart of Buffalo’s Black community.
The supermarket is about two blocks away public library named after Frank Elliott Merriweather Jr. the former publisher of the Buffalo Criterion, a Black newspaper. And it’s about half a mile from the Buffalo Black Achievers Museum.
“You have now a White… assailant in a (majority) Black community. Why did he choose this market?” CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem said.
“There are two aspects of the murder in the first degree charge that potentially could be charged here,” Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said at a press conference Saturday afternoon.
One factor, he explained, is when multiple people are shot or killed. The other is when there is a racial component to the case.
The district attorney said his office is looking into making sure they have the best charge against the suspect but, “from a state standpoint it is life without parole and that’s as high as we can go.”
Saturday’s shooting adds to the list of hate-fueled violence in the United States in recent years. And it marks yet another incident in the growing toll of mass shootings in the United States, which stood at 197 for the year as of Saturday afternoon, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The archive and CNN define a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot, not including the shooter.
Experts consider easy access to guns a root cause of the violence, and open-carry states lower the barrier for people to own and carry guns in public. But the spike in violence since summer 2020 has been general, across cities and states with lax and strict gun laws, with progressive and conservative prosecutors, as well as Republican and Democratic mayors and governors.
Among other recent attacks authorities say were motivated by hate:
— In August 2019, police say a man killed 22 people and injured nearly two dozen more in a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.
The rampage was the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern US history.
Patrick Crusius was accused of killing and harming the victims “because of the actual and perceived national origin of any person,” the indictment states. He pleaded not guilty and is yet to stand trial.
— In October 2018, 11 worshippers were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
Federal prosecutors filed hate crime charges against Robert Bowers, claiming he used anti-Semitic slurs and criticized a Jewish group on a social media site in the days leading up to the shooting.
Bowers in 2019 pleaded not guilty. He is yet to be tried.
Federal prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty on charges including obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder and possession of a firearm during a violent crime.
— In June 2016, an American-born man who’d pledged allegiance to ISIS gunned down 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
The gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, carried an assault rifle and a pistol into the packed Pulse club about 2 a.m. on June 12, 2016, and started shooting, killing 49 people, officials said.
Mateen, who died in a shootout with police the day of the massacre, was interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 but was not found to be a threat, the FBI said.
— In June 2015, White supremacist Dylann Roof gunned down nine African American worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Roof was convicted of federal charges and sentenced to death in January 2017. He was the first federal hate-crime defendant to be sentenced to death, a Justice Department spokesperson said.
— In August 2012, another place of worship was the scene of a mass shooting. A gunman opened fire in a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, during prayer services, killing six and wounding four. Wade Michael Page died of a self-inflicted wound, the FBI said.
Then-Attorney General Eric Holder called the attack “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime.”
According to a man who described himself as an old Army buddy of Page’s, the attacker talked about “racial holy war” when they served together in the 1990s.
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CNN’s Sabrina Shulman, Phil Gast, Brian Stelter, Christina Maxouris and Peter Nickeas contributed to this report.