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NY suspect in racist shooting was questioned after threat last year

World May 15, 2022 11:53PM ET
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6/6 © Reuters. A law enforcement personnel stands outside the home of Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect Payton Gendron in Conklin, New York, U.S. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Angus Mordant 2/6

By Jenna Zucker and Gabriella Borter

BUFFALO, N.Y. (Reuters) -A white teenager who killed 10 people in a racist attack at a western New York grocery store in a Black neighborhood had been taken into custody last year and given a mental health evaluation after making a threat at his high school, authorities said.

New details, including the previous threat, emerged on Sunday that provided a fuller portrait of the suspect, Payton Gendron, 18, and his assault on a Buffalo supermarket that authorities described as an act of "racially motivated violent extremism."

"The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake this is an absolute racist hate crime that will be prosecuted as a hate crime," Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters on Sunday.

Gendron surrendered to police after Saturday's shooting of 13 people, 11 of whom were Black. He has been charged with first-degree murder - which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole in New York - and has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities said on Sunday that Gendron had driven to Buffalo from his home several hours away a day before the attack to do "reconnaissance" on the area. On Saturday afternoon he drove to the Tops Friendly Market, where he commenced an assault that he broadcast in real time on the social media platform Twitch, a live video service owned by Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN).

Dressed in tactical gear, Gendron opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle that he had purchased legally, but then modified illegally. Authorities found two other guns - a rifle and a shotgun - in his car.

Gramaglia told reporters that Gendron had appeared on the radar of local law enforcement last June, when police detained him after he made a "generalized" threat at his high school. Gendron was given a mental health evaluation at the time, but was released after a day and a half.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul told ABC News on Sunday that an investigation would focus on what could have been done to stop the teenager, who appeared to have advertised a slew of violent, racist views online.

"I want to know what people knew and when they knew it," she said.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit Buffalo on Tuesday, the White House said in a statement.

"Our hearts are heavy once again but our resolve must not waver; we must work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of this nation," Biden said in a Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) post.

A 180-page manifesto that circulated online, believed to have been authored by Gendron, outlined "The Great Replacement Theory" - a racist conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by minorities in the United States and other countries.

Another document online that appeared to have been written by Gendron sketched out a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the gun and testing the livestream.

A spokesperson for the Erie County district attorney's office declined to comment on the documents.

'I'M TERRIFIED'

On Sunday, several dozen community members held an emotional vigil for the victims outside the store, where Sharon Doyle, a 55-year-old security guard with Erie County Public Library, led a chant of "Black Lives Matter, my life matters."

"We all go in this Tops. I was scared to even go to Walmart (NYSE:WMT) last night," Doyle said. "I have to go to work tomorrow and I’m terrified."

Nearby, at the True Bethel Baptist Church, a reverend led a mournful service for a crowd of worshipers, including some family of the victims and some who had been at the store at the time of the shooting.

One was Charles Everhart Sr., 65, whose grandson Zaire Goodman, 20, worked at the store. Goodman was shot in the neck but survived.

"He was pushing the carts back to the store and he was one of the first to get hit," Everhart said.

The Buffalo shooting follows other racially motivated mass murders in recent years, including a Pittsburgh synagogue attack that left 11 dead in October 2018, and the Atlanta spa shootings in March 2021 in which a white man killed eight people, targeting Asians.

Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau's Buffalo field office, said the attack would be investigated both as a hate crime and as an act of "racially motivated violent extremism" under federal law.

Hochul, meanwhile, said she was dismayed that the suspect managed to live-stream his attack on social media, which she blamed for hosting a "feeding frenzy" of violent extremist ideology.

"These outlets must be more vigilant in monitoring social media content," she said.

Social media and streaming platforms like Twitch, which said it removed the stream after less than two minutes, have grappled with controlling violent and extremist content for years.

"The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content," a Twitch spokesperson said.

NY suspect in racist shooting was questioned after threat last year
 

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Comments (8)
Elezabeth Thomas
Elezabeth Thomas May 17, 2022 4:31PM ET
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The terrorists are ' red flagged', brought to the appropriate attention of authorities, over and over again when they reek of mental illness and dangerousness; yet no one does anything about until mass ******** What is it going to take get these sick persons off the street?
Jam Tha
Jam Tha May 16, 2022 12:43AM ET
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call it terrororism by American white supremacisthypocricy has no limit in this so called civilized society... lol
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 16, 2022 12:10AM ET
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10 people have been robbed of their chance of living a life and countless others are now mourning their loss. All for what? --- All for the people of the USA to realize beyond a reasonable doubt that guns do not mix with mentally unstable people. How many more lives need to be lost before COMMON SENSE prevails? Common Sense, in that people who demonstrate mental fragility by showing up on the radar of law enforcement, must be forbidden to own a weapon. A person who can't discipline themselves to find peace within themselves will likely not be able to discipline themselves while owning a deadly weapon --- The victims' families should sue the authorities for gross negligence in failing to apprehend a person who has been AT RISK of realizing threats while being allowed full access to weapons.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 15, 2022 11:59PM ET
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'Governor Kathy Hochul told ABC News on Sunday that an investigation would focus on what could have been done to stop the teenager' --- Why spend good money on an investigation when it's a no-brainer? -- 'Gendron had appeared on the radar of local law enforcement last June when police detained him after he made a "generalized" threat at his high school' --- Simply UPDATE YOUR PROCEDURES MANUAL: 1.) Any such individual must immediately be cut off from being able to purchase a weapon, no exception, no excuses, no evaluation for suitability of owning a weapon, period. 2.) Anyone who 'had appeared on the radar of local law enforcement' needs to go into a database and be researched as to where they publish data and then be monitored. -- Simple as that. -- It's COMMON SENSE, but in the USA common sense is not that common. --
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 15, 2022 11:37PM ET
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'a racist conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by minorities' -- make that 'a white, lazy, and mentally incompetent people like Payton Gendron, 18, are being replaced in the workforce by HARDWORKING minorities. -- Wake up Payton Gendron, 18! Just like Ukrainians have a right to make the most of life and living so do any minorities ANYWHERE in the world. -- Had you been working harder at being a better student and worked harder at becoming a better person and IF YOU HAD looked deeper _INSIDE YOURSELF_ to find faults for feeling miserable about your own competence then you would not have had to try to put down people _OUTSIDE YOURSELF_. --- What do people outside yourself have to do with the incompetence you feel inside yourself? -- Just like Trump follows the WRONG ROLE MODEL and IDEOLOGY in adoring Putin and just like the GOP is following a wrong role model like Trump, you have followed a WRONG role model like this conspiracy theory. It's a STUPID THEORY, man.
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus May 15, 2022 10:30PM ET
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right wing hate and ignorance, a cancer of society
Gus McCrae
Gus McCrae May 15, 2022 4:58PM ET
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most mass shootings are black on black. just facts. How many pieces did Reuters run on that uber-important stat for public policy?
Limin Tandiono
Limin Tandiono May 15, 2022 12:49PM ET
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An excellent example resulted from the best practiced democracy?
 
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