A new mass killing, the racist nature of which is beyond doubt, according to the American authorities. An 18-year-old white man, claiming to be a supremacist, opened fire on employees and customers of a supermarket frequented mainly by African Americans, in a Buffalo neighborhood, the second most populous city in New York State, Saturday May 14. This terrorist attack killed ten people and injured three. The shooter was arrested at the scene. Franceinfo details what we know about this tragedy that occurred in the northeastern United States, on the shores of Lake Erie, on the border with Canada.
A man opens fire in a supermarket
The killing began Saturday afternoon, around 2:30 p.m. The assailant, equipped with military-style clothing, a helmet and a bullet-proof vest, opened fire with a “assault weapon”. The targeted supermarket, part of the Tops Friendly Markets chain, is very busy on Saturdays. The store is located on Jefferson Avenue in a majority black neighborhood of the city of Buffalo, reports the Buffalo News*.
According to the story given at a press conference by the local police chief, Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, the killer first shoots four people in the parking lot, killing three of them. Then, the shooter enters the store to commit carnage. There, Aaron Salter, a security guard, retired policeman, shoots the assailant, specifies the Associated Press* agency. In vain. The killer, protected by his bulletproof vest, is not injured. He retaliates, killing the security guard, and drives into the supermarket, shooting employees and customers, before emerging into the parking lot.
Witnesses interviewed by the Washington Post*, described a scene of terror. Like Grady Lewis, who was outside the store and recounts seeing a man open fire, “pointing the gun left and right as he fired indiscriminately at people”.
When the police arrive on the scene, the young man turned his weapon against him, at the level of his neck, seeming ready to commit suicide, according to Commissioner Gramaglia. The police take aim at him and two officers then manage to convince him to drop his weapon, said the Buffalo police commissioner.
At least ten dead and three injured
Of the thirteen victims, eleven were black people and two were white, according to Commissioner Gramaglia. The ten people killed were four of them store employees and six customers. The three people injured and hospitalized were in stable condition on Saturday evening and one of them was able to be discharged, according to a spokesperson for the hospital quoted by the buffalo news.
The names of those who died were not released, other than security guard and one of the victims, Ruth Whitfield, 86 and mother of former Buffalo Fire Marshal Garnell Whitfield, today. now retired. “My mother was a mother to orphans. She was a blessing to all of us”he told the Buffalo News*.
A hate crime that aired on Twitch
This attack is “a crime motivated by hate and racism”perpetrated by “evil incarnate”, lambasted Erie County Sheriff John Garcia. On the weapon of the young man was written in white ink the word “nigger” (“nigger” in English), reveals the Buffalo News*. A racist and taboo word in the United States. The weapon included another inscription marked with the seal of American white supremacism: the number “14”, in reference to the “14 words” of one of the slogans of the neo-Nazi movement: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”explains Radio Canada.
The attacker, who was carrying a camera, started live-streaming his crime on Twitch, after coming forward “white supremacist” and “anti-Semite”. The platform said to itself “devastated” and recalled, in a press release, having a “zero tolerance policy on violence of any kind”. According to the social network, the content has been removed “two minutes” after it started broadcasting, the assailant’s account was “permanently suspended” and “all accounts likely to repost this content are under surveillance”.
Several American media also mention a “manifest” of a racist nature disseminated on the Internet. Investigators are trying to find out if this text was written by the killer. This 180-page document exposes racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic beliefs, including a desire to expel all non-Europeans from the United States, details the AP agency. The text also develops the racist and conspiratorial theory of the “great replacement”, according to the Washington Post*. The author of the manifesto also claims to be inspired by Brenton Tarrant, the man who killed 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
An open investigation for “first degree murder”
Arrested on the spot, the killer was remanded in custody “without parole”. He is being prosecuted for “first degree murder”, announced the Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn*, who also revealed the identity of the suspect: Payton S. Gendron, 18, a resident of Conklin, more than 300 kilometers from Buffalo. According to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, the killer traveled several hours to commit his murder.
“We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism,” said Buffalo FBI police officer Stephen Belongia. “Hate crime” in the United States refers to an act directed against a targeted person because of elements of their identity such as race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or disability. Considered an aggravated federal offence, it carries harsher sentences.
Asked by the media on site whether the shooter risked the death penalty at the federal level, the local representative of the prosecution replied that “all options were on the table”. During his first hearing, the shooter, unknown to law enforcement according to the prosecutor, pleaded not guilty to first degree murder, reports the New York Times*.
Joe Biden denounces a “repulsive white nationalist ideology”
In a press release published on Saturday evening, the American president, Joe Biden, denounced this attack, recalling that “Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is contrary to everything we stand for in America”.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul also condemned, on Twitter, “the horrific shooting of white supremacy” and assured that the local authorities will ensure “that law enforcement has what they need to pursue the shooter as much as possible”.
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
For his part, the president of the American civil rights organization NAACP, Derrick Johnson, released a statement in which he called the Buffalo shooting a“absolutely devastating”. “Hate and racism have no place in America”, did he declare.
This is absolutely devastating. Hate and racism have no place in America. We are shattered, extremely angered and praying for the victims’ families and loved ones, as well as the entire community. #BuffaloNY #BuffaloStronghttps://t.co/uT23SjCAaM
—Derrick Johnson (@DerrickNAACP) May 14, 2022
The famous Reverend Al Sharpton, an African-American civil rights figure, has called on the White House to convene a “hate crime summit”. “This requires a national response to the increase in hate crimes immediately”he thundered on Twitter.
I have spoken to 2 Biden Cabinet members by phone and stressed we need aa White House summit on hate crimes immediately. This needs a National response to rising hate crimes immediately.!!!
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) May 15, 2022
* All these links refer to content in English