Payton Gendron Buffalo gunman disguised as homeless man and did reconnaissance before shooting at Tops Supermarket specifically targeting black people.
The teenager accused of murdering 10 people in a race hate crime after firing up to 50 gunshots at a Buffalo, upstate NY supermarket conducted ‘reconnaissance’ at the store before carrying out his attack, it was revealed Sunday.
Shonnell Teague, manager of Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, claims suspected gunman Payton Gendron, 18, visited the store on Friday while disguised as a homeless person.
‘He was acting like he was homeless and needed change,’ Teague told The New York Daily News on Sunday. ‘He really was checking out the store.’
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia confirmed the allegations, noting Gendron, of Conklin, who lives nearly 200 miles away from Buffalo made multiple stops in the area the day before the massacre.
‘He was in the Buffalo area, he was right in this area the day before,’ Gramaglia said at a news conference Sunday. ‘We have identified some of the locations that he was at. We know he did some reconnaissance on the area and the store.’
Domestic terrorism targeting black community
Gendron allegedly opened fire at the supermarket on Saturday afternoon, killing 10 people and injuring three others, before he surrendered to police outside the store. Eleven of the 13 shooting victims were black.
The teen, who claims to identify as a white supremacist, issued several ‘clear and hate-filled’ statements about his motive and state of mind following his arrest, and admitted that he was targeting the black community when he carried out the massacre, an official confirmed to CNN.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn revealed Sunday night that officials also now considering charging Gendron with domestic terrorism.
‘We’re looking at potentially multiple additional charges to be filed,’ Flynn told Fox News. ‘We are looking at domestic terrorism charges, we are looking at hate crime charges, there’s actually a charge in New York State called domestic terrorism motivated by hate. So, that charge right there encompasses the actual terrorism and the hate charge together, all in one charge.’
Gendron pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder following Saturday’s attack. He is being held without bail and faces life in prison.
The alleged killer, who is due back in court on Thursday, is currently on suicide watch after he ‘put the gun under his chin’ as though to shoot himself following Saturday’s attack. Officers managed to ‘talk him down’ and arrest him. Of note, Gendron according to his manifesto had planned to head off to a second location he had marked full of black people to continue his mass shooting.
Police believe Gendron planned the attack for months before driving three hours to Buffalo to carry out the ‘racist attack‘ that authorities are calling an act of ‘violent extremism’ motivated by race.
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Studied previous hate crimes
Investigators, while executing a search warrant at the teen’s family home on Sunday, also found evidence that the teen had been ‘studying’ previous hate crimes and shootings before he carried out his own attack.
‘The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime,’ Gramaglia said. ‘This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind.’
It was also revealed Sunday that Gendron was not on law enforcement’s radar – despite having underwent a mental health evaluation last summer after he threatened to open fire at his high school.
Police were called to Gendron’s high school in Conklin, New York, located near the Pennsylvania border, on June 8, 2021 after he made a threatening statement, authorities revealed during a press conference Sunday.
‘The state police responded. They investigated. They interviewed the subject. And they felt at the time it was appropriate to have that individual brought in for a mental health evaluation,’ Gramaglia explained.
Gramaglia said the threat was not racist and not directed at a specific person or place.
However, an unnamed law enforcement source told The Associated Press Gendron, then-17, had threatened to shoot up Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna High School around graduation.
Gendron was released after spending a day-and-a-half in the hospital. Gramaglia said that after his discharge, Gendron had no further contact with law enforcement.
‘Nobody called in,’ the police commissioner said. ‘Nobody called any complaints.’
The weekend shooting is the latest mass violent act in the U.S, as the nation deals with increased gun violence, hate crime and mass shootings in the aftermath of the COVID amid unwavering social and economic tension.