Buffalo shooting suspect pleads not guilty to terrorism charge
The white man charged with carrying out a racist mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket pleaded not guilty Thursday to hate-motivated domestic terrorism and other charges as a prosecutor called the evidence against him overwhelming.
A lawyer entered the plea for Payton Gendron, 18, who didn’t speak during a brief hearing with a heavy security presence. Several court officers stood against the courtroom wall, keeping an eye on the roughly 30 spectators.
For the record:
7:55 p.m. June 2, 2022An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of Assistant Dist. Atty. John Feroleto as Fereleto.
Witnesses, police and Gendron’s own video and writings incriminated him in the attack. The shooter used an AR-15-style rifle to target shoppers and employees of a Tops Friendly Markets store, which authorities said was chosen because it was in a predominantly Black neighborhood. All 10 people killed in the May 14 assault were Black.
“There is overwhelming proof of the defendant’s guilt,” Assistant Dist. Atty. John Feroleto said. “The defendant was caught at the scene of the crime with the weapon in his hands.”
Gendron has been held without bail since the shooting and is due back in court July 7.
He was charged with murder shortly after the attack. On Wednesday, a new indictment expanded the case to include a domestic terrorism charge that carries the potential for an automatic life sentence, along with 10 counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime, criminal possession of a weapon and three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime.
Payton Gendron’s hometown lies in a region where extremism is seeping into the mainstream. “It’s an awful way to get our name on the map,” one resident said, referring to the Buffalo massacre Gendron is accused of committing.
The domestic terrorism charge — officially, domestic acts of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree — accuses Gendron of killing at least five people “because of the perceived race and/or color” of his victims.
Prosecutors said Gendron drove about three hours to Buffalo from his home in Conklin, N.Y., intending to kill as many Black people as possible.
Shortly before opening fire, he reportedly posted documents that outlined his white supremacist views and revealed he had been planning the attack for months.
The slain victims ranged in age from 32 to 86. Three other people were wounded.
The attack, followed 10 days later by a shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has renewed a national debate about gun control.
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