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Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect pleads guilty to murder, domestic terrorism charges

Buffalo Supermarket Shooting
Posted at 10:26 AM, Nov 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-28 12:26:27-05

The gunman who killed 10 people and wounded three others in a racist mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket last May has pleaded guilty to all state charges brought against him, including multiple counts of murder in the first degree and one count of domestic terrorism motivated by hate. The guilty plea means he will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, his defense attorneys announced on Monday.

Attorney Brian Parker said the outcome of Monday morning's court hearing "represents a condemnation" of the racist ideologies that fueled the attack last spring.

Nineteen-year-old Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York, had previously pleaded not guilty to state as well as federal charges, which were announced several months after the massacre took place. Gendron was arrested shortly after the shooting, having surrendered to police, and was held in Erie County while awaiting arraignment. In early June, he was indicted by a grand jury on 25 counts, which included 10 counts of first-degree murder as a hate crime, 10 counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime, three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime, and one count of criminal possession of a weapon.

The first count laid out in the grand jury's indictment, charging him with domestic terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree, alleges that his attack was calculated, and he deliberately targeted the people who were killed and wounded "because of the perceived race and/or color of such person or persons." It carries a potential sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Investigators said that on May 14, the gunman, who was 18 at the time, opened fire outside, and then inside, the Tops grocery store in Buffalo. He was found to have ties to white supremacy and extremist ideologies.

Each of the 10 individuals killed that day was Black, as was one of the three wounded individuals who survived.

The dead were identified as: Celestine Chaney, 65; Roberta A. Drury, 32; Andre Mackniel, 53; Katherine Massey, 72; Margus D. Morrison, 52; Heyward Patterson, 67; Geraldine Talley, 62; Ruth Whitfield, 86; and Pearl Young, 77.

Investigators said the gunman arrived at the supermarket wearing body armor and a head-mounted camera, which he used to briefly livestream the shooting on a gaming platform before it shut down his video feed. When officers recovered his weapon after the attack, they found inscriptions on it with the phrases "Here's your reparations!" and the "The Great Replacement" — a far-right, white nationalist conspiracy theory — as well as racist slurs, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Months earlier, the gunman had written "a self-described manifesto" that contained "a detailed plan to shoot and kill Black people at Tops using a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle," the Justice Department said.

He still faces federal charges in addition to state charges. A 27-count indictment issued by a grand jury in July included 14 charges for hate crimes either resulting in death or involving an attempt to kill, and another 13 charges for using a firearm while carrying out a hate crime. Charges outlined in the federal indictment carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty, the Justice Department said, adding that Attorney General Merrick Garland would decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later time.