Eleven of the people who were shot at the Tops Friendly Markets store were Black, and authorities say they believe the mass shooting was racially motivated.
The victims included a former Buffalo police lieutenant working as a security guard and the 86-year-old mother of Buffalo’s retired fire commissioner, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, a spokesman for Erie County Medical Center said Saturday night.
The suspect drove to the Buffalo supermarket from Conklin, New York, about 200 miles away, and was livestreaming as he carried out the shooting, authorities said.
Payton S. Gendron used an assault rifle to kill three people outside the supermarket and seven more inside, officials said. He eventually surrendered to police and was taken into custody.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told CNN that investigators believe the suspect researched the area and “targeted the busiest place at one of the busiest times.”
“This was targeted by zip code,” Hochul said. “This was the highest concentration of African-Americans within hours.”
Indeed, in the manifesto, the author says that the supermarket was in a zip code that “has the highest black percentage that is close enough to where I live.”
The zip code that includes the store, 14208, is 78% Black, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. That is the highest percentage of Black population of any zip code in upstate New York. In comparison the zip code 13748, which includes Gendron’s hometown of Conklin, is 89% White and 0.4% Black.
How the shooting unfolded
At around 2:30 p.m., the suspect drove to Tops Friendly Markets near the areas of Masten Park and Kingsley, which are predominantly Black neighborhoods, authorities said.
Wearing tactical gear and armed with an assault weapon, the suspect allegedly shot and killed three people in the parking lot and wounded a fourth, according to a statement from Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
The suspect then entered the store and exchanged gunfire with an armed security guard who was a retired member of the Buffalo Police Department, the district attorney said. The guard was identified as Aaron Salter, Mayor Brown said.
Because the suspect wore heavy tactical gear, however, the guard’s bullets did not have any effect, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Saturday.
“He was very heavily armed,” the police commissioner said. “He had tactical gear, he had a tactical helmet on, he had a camera that he was livestreaming what he was doing.”
Inside the store, nine people were shot before the suspect was apprehended by police, according to the district attorney’s statement.
In a statement sent to CNN, livestreaming service Twitch confirmed the shooting was streamed and said the user “has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”
“He came out, he put the gun to his head, to his chin. Then he dropped it and took off his bulletproof vest, then got on his hands and knees and put his hands behind his back,” Lewis said, describing the moments the suspect was arrested by police. “I thought they were going to shoot him but they didn’t shoot him.”
“I still don’t even believe it happened … that a person would go into a supermarket full of people,” he said. “It was horrible, it was really horrible.”
The Tops Friendly Markets store released a statement Sunday saying it was heartbroken over the violence. “Tops has been committed to this community and to the city of Buffalo for decades and this tragedy will not change that commitment,” the company said.
Suspect used illegally modified assault rifle
Gov. Hochul said an AR-15 used in the shooting was purchased legally in a gun store in New York state but was illegally modified with a high-capacity magazine.
“What has made this so lethal, and so devastating for this community, was the high-capacity magazine that would have had to have been purchased elsewhere, that’s not legal in the state of New York,” she said.
Hochul also told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the suspect was “on the radar” of law enforcement.
“Just as a high school student with respect to something he wrote in high school and was under surveillance at the time with medical authorities,” she said. “But I’m going to be investigating that very question, George. I want to know what people knew, and when they knew it, and calling upon our law enforcement as well as our social media platforms.”
Brown told CNN that the suspect surveilled both the community and the grocery store as part of the planning of his attack.
“It sounds like he was here for maybe several days from reports that I’ve been hearing and that he did surveil this community, was scouting the supermarket, actually talked to some people in the area,” Brown told CNN.
Following the shooting, investigators obtained “certain pieces of evidence” that “indicate some racial animosity” from the suspect, Flynn said during a Saturday news conference.
“I’m not going to … elaborate on what exactly they are right now but we have evidence in custody right now that shows that there is some racial component,” Flynn said.
The 180-page manifesto, independently obtained by CNN shortly after the attack and before authorities released the suspect’s name, is allegedly written by a person claiming to be Payton Gendron confessing to the attack.
The manifesto’s author says he bought ammo for some time but didn’t get serious about planning the attack until January. The author goes on about his perceptions of the dwindling size of the White population and claims of ethnic and cultural replacement of Whites.
CNN’s Samantha Beech, Tina Burnside, Haley Burton, Gregory Clary, Phil Gast, Jamiel Lynch, Christina Maxouris, Artemis Moshtaghian, Sharif Paget, Shimon Prokupecz, Sabrina Shulman, Brian Stelter and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.