Update: Buffalo shooting suspect charged with federal hate crimes

Payton Gendron
Payton Gendron

The gunman accused of killing 10 people in an upstate New York supermarket has been charged with hate crimes by the US justice department.

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 crime and firearms charges, some of which carry the possibility of the death penalty.

Mr Gendron has pleaded not guilty to separate state charges.

According to the federal criminal complaint released on Wednesday, Mr Gendron’s “motive for the mass shooting was to prevent black people from replacing white people”.

The complaint also alleges that he hoped to “inspire others to commit similar attacks”.

A total of 13 people were shot in the 14 May shooting. Three of them survived.

“No one in this country should have to live in fear that they will go to work or shop at a grocery store and will be attacked by someone who hates them because of the colour of their skin,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference in Buffalo on Wednesday.

Following the incident, authorities said the accused gunman drove more than 320km (200 miles) to a predominantly black neighbourhood in Buffalo – New York’s second-largest city – with the specific intention of ending “as many black lives as possible”.

A manifesto believed to be written by the alleged attacker, in which he describes himself as both a fascist and a white supremacist, also emerged in the wake of the shooting.

The new charges against Mr Gendron include 10 counts of hate crime resulting in death, three counts involving bodily injury, and 10 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder and in relation to a violent crime.

He also faces three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during a violent crime.

While a moratorium was placed on federal executions in July 2021, Mr Garland said that the Department of Justice would follow existing procedures to determine whether it will seek the death penalty for Mr Gendron.

He added that “families and the survivors will be consulted” as the government makes that assessment.

The suspected gunman faces separate domestic terrorism and murder charges filed by New York State. He has remained in custody since the shooting.

It is believed to be the first time that a New York domestic terrorism law enacted in 2020 is being used against a defendant.

The Buffalo shooting, together with another recent mass shooting at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas that left 21 people dead, has led to renewed calls for stricter gun control measures in the US.

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