The alleged white supremacist accused of opening fire and killing ten people in a Buffalo, New York grocery store appeared before a judge for the first time on Saturday — just hours after the massacre took place.
Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, N.Y., is believed to have traveled three-and-a-half hours from his home near Binghamton to the Tops Friendly Market where authorities say he shot 13 people. Tops is a regional grocery store chain.
“Mr. Gendron, you’ve been charged with multiple counts of murder in the first degree,” Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah informed the defendant.
— Eileen Buckley (@eileenwkbw) May 14, 2022
“There should be a copy of the charges in front of you,” the judge continued. “Do you understand that sir?”
“Yes, sir,” Gendron said.
Gendron appeared in court wearing a white paper-style jail smock. The prosecutor appeared to be wearing blue jeans.
“Do you want me to read these charges to you, or do you understand these charges?” the judge asked.
“I understand my charges,” the defendant said.
When asked if he could afford an attorney, Gendron said “no.”
An attorney who appeared along with the defendant said he would accept an appointment as defense counsel. That defense attorney, Brian Parker, entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client and waived a formal reading of court papers.
A prosecutor said he was prepared to swiftly present the case to a grand jury.
Erie County District Attorney’s Office said in a Saturday press release that the defendant was technically arraigned on “one count of Murder in the First Degree,” even though the judge and the defendant seemed to reference multiple counts in court.
Prosecutors Gary W. Hackbush, who is the chief of the county homicide unit, and John P. Feroleto, who is the chief of the county’s major crimes unit, are assigned to the case. Hackbush handled the Saturday appearance.
Under New York law, first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison without parole.
Gendron is due back in court on Thurs., May 19, at 9:30.
Cameras are generally not allowed in New York State courts under a myriad of rules and privacy statutes, but arraignments (such as the one held Saturday) and sentencing hearings are exceptions to that general rule.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) called the incident a “white supremacist shooting” and said the suspect was a “white supremacist.” She also called the shooting an “act of terrorism.”
Tonight my heart is with my neighbors in Buffalo who are feeling unimaginable pain due to a white supremacist.
We’ll be there for the families affected by this act of terrorism. And we’ll ensure law enforcement has what they need to prosecute the shooter to the fullest extent.
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) May 15, 2022
Authorities said that Gendron livestreamed the massacre on the internet. Images of the gun used in the attack — images which appear to be authentic and which were apparently taken from that livestream — indicated that a racial epithet was scrawled on the barrel of the weapon.
Gendron is also said to have posted a 180-page manifesto online that is allegedly filled with white supremacist and antisemitic sentiments. The missive also contains references to — and sometimes borrows from — screeds penned by previous shooters, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The document expressed an urge to “spread awareness to my fellow whites about the real problems the West is facing” and to “encourage further attacks that will eventually start the way that will save the Western world,” the ADL said.
Law&Crime has not independently reviewed the document.
As Law&Crime previously reported after a late afternoon press conference, Gendron is said by the authorities to have been heavily armored during the attack. A store security guard returned fire but could not pierce Gendron’s armor; Gendron shot and killed the security guard during the massacre. Buffalo ABC affiliate WIVB identified that security guard as Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer.
Video of the appearance is below via local outlet Erie News Now. Buffalo is in Erie County, N.Y.
The DA’s press release is below:
Editor’s note: this report has been updated to contain additional information.
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