Buffalo grocery store mass shooter pleads guilty to murder and terrorism charges



CNN

The man accused of killing 10 people and injuring more than a dozen at a grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty Monday to charges of murder, domestic terrorism and attempted murder as a hate crime.

Payton Gendron, a 19-year-old white man, pleaded guilty Monday to acts of domestic terrorism motivated by hate, first-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime and a weapons charge.

He spoke in court only to answer yes when asked if he understood the charges and to plead guilty. He also spoke to answer questions about his education.

The hearing was originally scheduled for last Monday, but was postponed due to a snowstorm in the Buffalo area.

Gendron is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of second-degree hate crime murder and three counts of attempted hate crime murder, according to the indictment. He also faces a charge of domestic terrorism and a weapons charge, the indictment shows.

After the hearing, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn and Gendron’s attorney are expected to address the media.

Investigators believe Gendron targeted the victims, ages 20-86, based on race. Authorities have said he traveled from hours away to carry out the May 14 attack at Tops Friendly Markets, which is in a predominantly black community. Eleven of the 13 people shot were black and two were white, officials said.

If convicted of the state charges, Gendron faces life in prison without parole, the only sentence for the domestic terrorism charge, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in June. To use that charge, prosecutors must prove five or more people were killed with racially motivated intent, he added.

A man mourns at a memorial at the site of the mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on May 20, 2022.

When CNN reached out earlier this month, the suspect’s attorney, Dan DuBois, was not authorized to comment because of a gag order in the case, he said. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, is also under a gag order and declined to comment at the time.

“This is a remarkable group of families that I’m speaking for,” Terrence Connors, representing the families of seven people killed in the shooting and two who were injured, said as he announced the suspect’s plan to plead guilty. “The tragedy still weighs heavily on their hearts, but they have turned this nightmare into positive action. From their point of view, he has become irrelevant to their lives. Their lives have become about making something positive out of this terrible tragedy.”

The suspect also faces several federal hate crime charges that could carry the death penalty, in addition to several firearms charges.

Federal prosecutors allege the alleged gunman’s motive was to “prevent black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks,” according to a criminal complaint.

Gendron has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said after the attack that the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting was legally purchased in New York state but was modified with a high-capacity magazine, which is not legal in the state.

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