By CAROLYN THOMPSON, MICHAEL BALSAMO and DAVE COLLINS
BUFFALO, NY (AP) — An armed teenager dressed in military gear and broadcasting live with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what authorities described as “ racially motivated violent extremism,” killing 10 people and injuring three others on Saturday before he surrendered, authorities said.
Police officials said the 18-year-old shooter, who is white, was wearing a body armor and military-style clothing when he pulled over and opened fire on people at a Tops Friendly Market , the shooting was broadcast via a camera attached to the man’s helmet. .
“He got out of his vehicle. He was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear. He was wearing a tactical helmet. He had a camera that he was live streaming what he was doing,” city police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a news conference afterwards.
Gramaglia said the shooter initially shot four people outside the store, three of them fatally. Inside the store, a security guard who was a retired Buffalo police officer fired several shots at the shooter and struck him, but the bullet hit the shooter’s body armor and had no effect, Gramaglia added. The commissioner said the shooter then killed the security guard.
The video also captured the suspect as he entered the supermarket where he shot several other victims inside, authorities said.
Police said 11 of the victims were black and two were white. The supermarket is in a predominantly black neighborhood a few miles (kilometres) north of downtown Buffalo.
“This is the worst nightmare any community can face, and we’re hurting and bubbling right now,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at the press conference. “The depth of pain the families are feeling and that we are all feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
Gramaglia said Buffalo police entered the store and confronted the shooter in the vestibule.
“At this point the suspect put the gun to his own neck. Buffalo police personnel – two patrol officers – persuaded the suspect to drop the weapon. He dropped the gun, removed some of his tactical gear, and then surrendered. And he was taken outside, put in a police car,” he said.
The suspected shooter was later identified as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, a New York state community about 200 miles southeast of Buffalo, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. . The officials were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and did so on condition of anonymity.
Dressed in a hospital gown, Gendron was arraigned on Saturday night for first-degree murder and sentenced to detention without bail. Another hearing is scheduled for next week.
At the previous press conference, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia called the shooting a hate crime.
“It was pure evil. This was squarely a racially motivated hate crime by someone outside of our community, outside of good neighbor town… coming into our community and trying to inflict this harm on us,” Garcia said.
Elsewhere, NAACP President Derrick Johnson released a statement in which he called the shooting “absolutely devastating”.
“Our hearts are with the community and all those affected by this terrible tragedy. Hate and racism have no place in America. We are shocked, extremely angry and praying for the families and loved ones of the victims,” he added.
Separately, Reverend Al Sharpton called on the White House to convene a meeting with Blacks, Jews and Asians “to emphasize that the federal government is (scaling up) its efforts against hate crimes.” In a tweet, Sharpton said “leaders of all these communities should unite on this!”
The shooting came just over a year after a March 2021 attack on a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado that killed 10 people. Investigators have not released any information on why they believe the man accused of the attack targeted the supermarket.
At the scene in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon, police shut down an entire city block, lined with onlookers, and yellow police surrounded the entire parking lot.
Witnesses Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, pulled into the parking lot as the shooter exited. They described him as a white male in his late teens or early twenties wearing full camouflage, a black helmet, and what appeared to be a rifle.
“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like what’s going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face? Kephart said. He fell to his knees. “He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun and was tackled by the police.”
Tops Friendly Markets issued a statement saying, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
At the White House, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden receives regular updates on the shooting and the investigation and offered prayers with the first lady for the victims and their loved ones.
“The President was briefed by his Homeland Security Advisor on the horrific shooting in Buffalo, NY, this afternoon. He will continue to receive updates throughout the evening and tomorrow as new information will develop,” she said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has been briefed on the shooting, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said.
More than two hours after the shooting, Erica Pugh-Mathews was waiting outside the store, behind the police tape.
“We would like to know the status of my aunt, my mother’s sister. She was there with her fiancé, they split up and went down different aisles,” she said. “A bullet just missed him. He was able to hide in a freezer but he couldn’t reach my aunt and doesn’t know where she is. We’d just like a word anyway if she’s okay.
Associated Press reporters John Wawrow in Buffalo and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report. Balsamo reported from Washington and Collins reported from Hartford, Connecticut.