The gunman accused of killing ten people in a Buffalo, New York supermarket has been charged with hate crimes by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Authorities believe that suspect Payton Gendron, 18, was motivated by racial hatred. Almost all the victims in the shooting were black.
He now faces 26 federal hate crimes and firearms charges, some of which carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Gendron has pleaded not guilty to separate state charges.
“Gendron’s motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks,” alleges the affidavit from FBI Special Agent Christopher J. Dlugokinski.
The complaint also alleges that he hoped to “inspire others to commit similar attacks.”
The accused gunman had become an adherent to a conspiracy theory that has even wound its way into some mainstream media — the baseless “Great Replacement Theory,” which maintains that white people are at risk of being replaced by others.
“When he was taken into custody, officers recovered the rifle used by Gendron in the attack,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. “The rifle had various writings on it, including racial slurs, the statement ‘Here’s your reparations!,’ and the phrase ‘The Great Replacement.’
“Investigators have determined that Gendron fired approximately 60 shots during the attack. Two other firearms, a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, and a loaded bolt-action rifle, as well as three loaded rifle magazines, were recovered from Gendron’s vehicle after the attack.”
The criminal complaint against Gendron — the allegations will next be the focus of a likely grand jury indictment — provides a more detailed timeline of the horrors at the supermarket than previously public.
The affidavit alleges that:
• “Carrying a loaded Bushmaster XM-15 .223 caliber rifle and multiple loaded magazines,” Gendron first targeted a Black person in the parking lot, fatally shooting the person. He then started shooting at other Black people in the parking lot, killing two and injuring one. He shot one of the individuals while the victim was on the ground, ensuring the person was dead.
• Gendron then went into the store, killing two more. It was then when Gendron confronted the security guard, retired Buffalo Police Officer Aaron Salter Jr. The two exchanged gunfire, and Gendron fatally shot Salter. (The FBI affidavit does not name the victims.)
• Gendron then “turned and aimed his rifle at a white male Tops employee … who, at some point during the attack, had been shot in the leg and injured. Rather than shooting him, Gendon said, “sorry,” to (the victim) before moving on through the rest of the store in search of more Black people to shoot and kill.” (He also shot a white woman working at the pharmacy; she survived.)
• “Next, Gendron walked through the store’s checkout lane, and shot and killed a Black person … who was in that area.” He then shot and killed three more Black people in the store.
“As Gendron was shooting inside the store, numerous customers and Tops employees ran to the rear of the store and took shelter in a stock room, a conference room, a freezer, and a dairy cooler,” according to the affidavit. “Many others fled the store through the rear door.”
An online screed from Gendron showed his deadly racist impulses, federal authorities allege. There, he wrote he wanted to “kill as many blacks as possible,” and “avoid dying” and “spread ideals.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland visited the families of the slain victims in Buffalo. Afterward, he reiterated at a news conference that racism was the foundation of the homicides. Garland said that Gayton chose the particular neighborhood because of its high percentage of Black residents.