BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP/WIVB/NEXSTAR) – At least 10 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Tops Markets grocery store in Buffalo, New York, according to law enforcement officials who spoke with the Associated Press, in addition to Buffalo Police.
The suspect was identified as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, about 200 miles southeast of Buffalo, officials told AP. Witnesses reported Gendron, an 18 year-old white male, was wearing military-style clothing in addition to the body armor, according to police.
Police report at least 13 people were shot. Four people were store employees, officials say. Of the victims, 11 were Black and two were white.
One of the victims was Aaron Salter, a recently retired police officer, who was working as a security guard at the store, according to officials. That security guard was one of four people shot before the gunman entered the store. Police say the guard fired multiple shots at the gunman and hit him, though the bullet only hit the gunman’s bulletproof vest.
The gunman then entered the supermarket with a rifle and opened fire, according to one official who spoke with the AP. Investigators say he was livestreaming the shooting and were looking into whether he had posted a manifesto online, the official said.
The FBI is investigating the shooting as both a hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism, officials said Saturday.
The supermarket is in a predominately Black neighborhood, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) north of downtown Buffalo. The surrounding area is primarily residential, with a Family Dollar store and fire station near the store.
Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, pulled into the parking lot just as the shooter was exiting. They described him as a white male in his late teens or early twenties sporting full camo, a black helmet and what appeared to be a rifle.
“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like what the heck is going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face?” Kephart said. He dropped to his knees. “He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun, and was tackled by the police.”
Police closed off the block, lined by spectators, and yellow police taped surrounded the full parking lot.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said she’s monitoring the situation and has offered assistance to local law enforcement. On Saturday afternoon, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said in a press conference that he wanted to offer comfort to the families affected but knows “there is no comforting” them.
“Buffalo is known as the city of good neighbors – nationally and internationally,” said Brown. “This is a community where people love each other. The shooter was not from this community. In fact, the shooter travelled hours from outside this community to perpetrate this crime on the people of Buffalo – a day when people were enjoying the sunshine, enjoying family and friends, all manner of happy activities… This is a day of great pain for our community.”
Brown explained this particular Tops store, given its large Black community patronage, is “near and dear to his heart” and that he and several local officials knew some of the people who were killed.
At the news briefing, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia pointedly called the shooting a hate crime.
“This was pure evil. It was straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the City of Good neighbors … coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us,” Garcia said.
Elsewhere, NAACP President Derrick Johnson issued a statement in which he called the shooting “absolutely devastating.”
“Our hearts are with the community and all who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy. Hate and racism have no place in America. We are shattered, extremely angered and praying for the victims’ families and loved ones,” he added.
The shooter was arraigned on one count of first-degree murder without bail.
Live-streaming giant Twitch confirmed the shooter broadcast the attack and that the content was removed within minutes of going live. The service condemned the incident, telling WIVB in Buffalo, “The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”
The White House issued a statement from President Joe Biden Saturday evening, writing: “The President has been briefed by his Homeland Security Advisor on the horrific shooting in Buffalo, NY this afternoon. He will continue to receive updates throughout the evening and tomorrow as further information develops. The President and the First Lady are praying for those who have been lost and for their loved ones.”