Buffalo shooting: Payton Gendron’s family blame Covid isolation

Suspect was arraigned on Saturday and charged with first-degree murder; he pleaded not guilty

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 17 May 2022 06:15
Police says Buffalo shooting was 'pure evil'

Payton Gendron, the white supremacist who allegedly killed 10 people in a racially-motivated attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, was suffering from “paranoia” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, his relatives have claimed.

On Saturday, the 18-year-old opened fire with a rifle at the Tops Friendly Market in the 1200 block of Jefferson Avenue in New York, in a predominantly Black neighbourhood that authorities believe the suspect specifically targeted.

Of the 13 people shot in one of the deadliest mass shootings of the year, 11 were Black.

Sandra Komoroff, a cousin of the suspect's mother said she believed Covid-19 and the paranoia surrounding it fuelled Mr Gendron's behaviour.

“He was very paranoid about getting Covid, extremely paranoid, to the point that his friends were saying he would wear the hazmat suit [to school],” Ms Komoroff, 68, told The New York Post.

“And then he got Covid just a few weeks ago... He went to family functions with a respirator mask on. He totally wasn’t going to get Covid and then he got Covid,” she added.

Ms Komoroff claimed that although their family has been vaccinated against the coronavirus infection, Mr Gendron “bought into the fear of Covid”.

A person tends to a makeshift memorial outside the scene of shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo on 15 May

“That’s the only way to say it. And when you’re home all day on the internet, you’re missing out on human contact. There’s a lot of emotions and a lot of body language you’re not getting [as] when you see their face,” she said.

The suspect reportedly planned the attack on the social messaging platform Discord and broadcasted part of the carnage on the live-streaming site Twitch.

A 180-page “manifesto” has been found online, where the suspect refers to racist and white nationalist tropes such as the “great replacement” conspiracy theory and credited the anonymous and hateful 4chan community for his radicalisation.

The suspect had previously threatened to shoot up his high school and was taken into custody for a mental health evaluation, an anonymous law enforcement official told the Associated Press.

Last year, Mr Gendron had talked about committing a shooting at Susquehanna Valley Central High School in Broome County, New York, which prompted school officials to call state troopers.

“A school official reported that this very troubled young man had made statements indicating that he wanted to do a shooting, either at a graduation ceremony, or sometime after,” an unnamed official told The Buffalo News.

Mr Gendron on Saturday drove more than 320km to carry out the crime. He planned to keep driving and “shoot more Black people”, police officials said.

Buffalo mayor Byron Brown said the suspect arrived “to take as many Black lives as possible”.

The suspect was arraigned on Saturday and charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

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