Accused Buffalo Mass Shooter Payton Gendron Mugshot Released
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‘I Obviously Have to Temper My Outrage’: Prosecutor Releases Mugshot of Accused Buffalo Shooter, Reminds Public to Presume Him ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’

 
A mugshot released by the Erie County District Attorney's Office shows Payton S. Gendron, 18, who is accused of killing ten people in a Buffalo, New York grocery store on Sat., May 14, 2022.

A mugshot released by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office shows Payton S. Gendron, 18, who is accused of killing ten people in a Buffalo, New York grocery store on Sat., May 14, 2022.

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn released a mugshot of apparent Buffalo, New York grocery store shooter Payton S. Gendron on Sunday morning.  Gendron is suspected of livestreaming an attack that killed ten people and wounded three others at a Tops Friendly Market on Saturday afternoon.  Authorities say the attack was racially motivated and that the defendant posted a detailed white supremacist, racist, and antisemitic manifesto online before donning heavy body armor, driving several hours, and pulling the trigger.

In a five-minute video posted to YouTube Sunday morning, Flynn reminded people that the shooter must be presumed “innocent until proven guilty” in a court of law and that his job was to ensure that court proceedings are conducted according to standard legal norms.

“These are just allegations,” Flynn said with reference to Gendron.  “But that is not gonna stop me from speaking out and letting this community know how outraged I am.”

“I obviously have to temper my outrage,” Flynn continued.  “I have to make sure that a fair trial is conducted.  I have to make sure that the rights of the defendant are upheld and that the process is done in the impartial manner that we handle all our trials here in Erie County.”

An NBC News screengrab shows the scene where a gunman opened fire and killed at least ten people on Sat., May 14, 2022. (The death toll referenced in the television graphic has since been updated.)

The county’s top law enforcement officer reminded people that the defendant was charged with first-degree murder — New York’s highest homicide charge.

New York’s first-degree murder charge applies only in specific circumstances and is not frequently applied in Erie County, the DA said during an earlier press conference Saturday.  The circumstances include the killings of judges, police officers, peace officers, firefighters, emergency medical workers, witnesses to crimes, and corrections employees.  The first-degree murder law also applies in a few other circumstances, such as where the defendant was already in jail on certain other charges, in murder-for-hire schemes, in certain felony murder cases (where deaths include and involve other underlying felonies, such as robbery, burglary, rape, and other crimes), and where victims were tortured prior to their deaths.

But it also applies to cases where a defendant, “as part of the same criminal transaction . . . causes the death of an additional person or persons.”  That’s the language the DA zeroed in on while addressing possible charges on Saturday.  The first-degree murder statute also applies where “the victim was killed in furtherance of an act of terrorism,” the definition of which is found elsewhere in state law.

Video recorded by Buffalo NBC affiliate WGRZ shows a helmet and what appears to be an evidence bag at the scene of a grocery store shooting on Sat., May 14, 2022. (Image via YouTube screengrab.)

Video recorded by Buffalo NBC affiliate WGRZ shows a helmet and what appears to be an evidence bag at the scene of a grocery store shooting on Sat., May 14, 2022. (Image via YouTube screengrab.)

“We have evidence that this was potentially racially motivated,” Flynn said.  “We have evidence that potentially may lead us to a terrorism charge.”

The DA said he was looking at raising another possible charge involving “domestic acts of terrorism motivated by race” — which the DA said carried the same felony level (life without parole) as the first-degree murder charge already levied against the defendant.

The actual charge appears to be called “domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree.”  The charge applies when a defendant kills “five or more other persons, in whole or in substantial part because of the perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation . . . regardless of whether that belief or perception is correct.”

A grand jury will be swiftly empaneled, prosecutors with Flynn’s office said yesterday during an arraignment.  Gendron’s attorney entered a preliminary not guilty plea on his client’s behalf during that hearing.

Alleged Buffalo, N.Y. grocery store mass murderer Payton Gendron appears at a Sat., May 14, 2022 arraignment. (Image via Facebook video screengrab/Erie News Now.)

Alleged Buffalo, N.Y. grocery store mass murderer Payton Gendron appears at a Sat., May 14, 2022 arraignment. (Image via Facebook video screengrab/Erie News Now.)

“If we do our job, and if we have the families in mind, and the victims in mind, the community in mind, then, at the end of the day, hopefully justice will be done,” Flynn said on video Sunday morning.

The release of mugshots in criminal cases is relatively rare in New York State.  A state law generally bans their dissemination to the public as an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” but that same law provides for the “public release of such photographs” when the release “will serve a specific law enforcement purpose and disclosure is not precluded by any state or federal laws.”  Similar mugshot bans have been enacted in other states; New York’s has been subjected to varying degrees of praise and criticism.  Meanwhile, mugshots of federal inmates are frequently hard to obtain. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held in 2016 that arrestees can assert privacy interests in booking photos and, thus, that authorities need not necessarily release images of inmates to the press. The majority of judges in that case ruled that mugshots “convey guilt” and “haunt the depicted individual for decades.”

Watch the DA’s video message below:

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now a Senior Editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.