Buffalo suspect Payton Gendron heckled as grand jury indicts him for mass shooting

Payton Gendron, 18, appeared in Buffalo City Court on charges over the deadliest mass shooting in 2022

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 19 May 2022 18:00 BST
Relative of Buffalo shooting victim shouts 'coward' at Payton Gendron in court
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Self-proclaimed racist and white supremacist Payton Gendron was heckled and branded a “coward” in court on Thursday morning as he was indicted by a grand jury for the mass murder of 10 Black people.

Payton Gendron, 18, appeared in Erie County Courthouse dressed in armour for a felony hearing on charges of first-degree murder, that was attended by devastated family members of some of his victims.

As he was escorted out of the court following the brief hearing, one of the relatives shouted “Payton, you’re a coward” at him.

Mr Gendron is so far charged with first-degree murder for carrying out the deadliest mass shooting in 2022 in what local officials have described as an act of “pure evil”.

He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Saturday night – just hours after he had live-streamed the attack targeting a predominantly Black community in upstate New York.

During Wednesday’s brief hearing, Mr Gendron – who apparently spewed his hatred for minorities online – remained silent as Erie County Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush said the indictment had been handed up.

Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah adjourned the hearing and set a date of 9 June for the next court appearance.

Payton Gendron appears in court accused of killing 10 people in a live-streamed supermarket shooting in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York on May 19, 2022
Payton Gendron appears in court accused of killing 10 people in a live-streamed supermarket shooting in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York on May 19, 2022 (REUTERS)

Dressed in orange prison scrubs and a white face mask, with armour underneath his vest for his own safety, Mr Gendron was then whisked back to jail flanked by several law enforcement officers.

Erie County Sheriff’s Office told News 10 it was “taking every precaution with the incarcerated individual as the process moves forward”.

Following the hearing, District Attorney John Flynn said in a statement that there would be “no further comment from our office until there is a report following an investigation by the Grand Jury”.

The 18-year-old is accused of driving around three hours from his home in Conklin to the Tops Friendly Market grocery store in Buffalo dressed in tactical gear and armed with an assault rifle on Saturday afternoon.

The gunman opened fire outside the store first before moving through the supermarket aisles targeting innocent shoppers.

Ten people were murdered in the attack and three others were shot but survived.

Eleven of the 13 victims were Black, including all 10 who died, and they ranged in age from 20 to 86.

Among those slaughtered was a former police officer turned security guard at the store who died trying to stop the gunman.

Mr Gendron was taken into custody at the scene and made “disturbing statements” about his motive, making clear that he was “filled with hate toward the Black community” and was targeting Black people, according to officials.

The firearm used in the attack had the n-word written on it and the number 14 – an apparent reference to a conspiracy theory.

According to an online manifesto which appears to have been posted by the gunman, Mr Gendron called himself a racist, white supremacist and antisemite and detailed how he had been inspired by other white supremacist mass shooters.

He also cited the debunked “great replacement theory” which has repeatedly been spouted by right-wing personalities such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson – an extremist conspiracy theory that falsely claims there is a plot to diminish the influence of white people.

As the tight-knit community reels from the attack and the loss of their loved ones, further shocking new details have also come to light about the teenage gunman.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said that there is evidence that Mr Gendron planned to continue the mass shooting at at least one other location in the community.

He had planned to leave the Tops store and head to “another large superstore” to continue shooting innocent people but was taken into custody before he could leave the grocery store.

Payton Gendron appears in court where he was indicted by a grand jury on 19 May
Payton Gendron appears in court where he was indicted by a grand jury on 19 May (Toni Waterman Twitter)

Officials have also learned that Mr Gendron planned the attack several months ago and visited the store two months earlier to scope it out.

Investigators believe he targeted the community that is three hours from his home because it has a majority Black population.

Questions are also mounting over how he was able to access a firearm after it emerged that he previously threatened to carry out a mass shooting at his school.

Last June, police were called to the school over the incident and he was sent to a mental health exam.

However, he went on to purchase the gun legally – before allegedly modifying it.

More charges are expected to be filed against Mr Gendron and the US Department of Justice is also investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism and terrorism.

If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces New York’s maximium penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If charged and convicted of federal charges, he could face the death penalty.

He is currently being held on suicide watch and without bail in the custody of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.

The massacre has reignited calls for stricter gun control in the US and a crackdown on hate crime and domestic terrorism, as well as tighter regulations on social media platforms which were used by the gunman to stream the mass shooting and share his racist beliefs online.

Discord confirmed that Mr Gendron shared his private diary containing his plan and motives with a group on its chat platform just 30 minutes before embarking on the attack.

President Joe Biden visited Buffalo this week where he vowed to expose those who promote the “poison” of white supremacy.

“Now’s the time for people of all races, from every background, to speak up as a majority ... and reject white supremacy,” he said.

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