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Accused Buffalo Grocery Store Terrorist Indicted on Federal Hate Crime and Firearm Charges

Buffalo shooting

A mother and child walk past the Tops grocery store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, New York, where 18-year-old Payton Gendron, armed with an automatic rifle, allegedly murdered ten people and wounded three others on Saturday, May 14.

The suspected terrorist charged in connection with the massacre in a Buffalo, New York grocery that targeted mostly Black victims has been federally indicted on dozens of federal hate crime and firearms offenses.

In the early afternoon of May 14, 2022, then-18-year-old white man Payton Gendron allegedly brought a Bushmaster XM rifle into Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo and opened fire, live-streaming himself on the internet and disseminating a racist screed. He killed 10 Black people and wounded one Black person and two white people, authorities say.

The indictment notes that he killed three Black people in front of Tops — Roberta Drury, Pearl Young, and Heyward Patterson — and injured another.

Entering the store clad in a tactical-style helmet, camouflage clothing, body armor, and a GoPro video camera, Gendron opened fire with his loaded Bushmaster XM-15 .223 caliber rifle and multiple loaded magazines, killing seven more Black people: Ruth Whitfield, Celestine Chaney, Aaron W. Salter, Jr., Andre Mackniel, Margus Morrison, Katherine Massey, and Geraldine Talley, the indictment says.

Gendron said “sorry” to one of his white victims, according to the FBI’s affidavit.

On Thursday, a federal grand jury returned a 27-count indictment against him, 10 of which comprise hate crimes resulting in death. Gendron also faces hate crime charges for attempting to kill the three people he wounded and allegedly trying to kill other Black people in the store.

In the remaining 13 counts, Gendron stands accused of using, carrying, or discharging a firearm in relation to the hate crimes.

The indictment’s special findings state that Gendron committed his offense with “substantial planning and premeditation to commit an act of terrorism.”

“Today, a grand jury has indicted Payton Gendron with hate crime and firearms offenses following the horrific attack on the Black community of Buffalo that killed 10 people and injured three others on May 14, 2022,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy. We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.”

Payton Gendron appeared before a New York State judge at the Erie County Courthouse on May 19, 2022 in Buffalo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.)

Payton Gendron appeared before a New York State judge at the Erie County Courthouse on May 19, 2022 in Buffalo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.)

Gendron’s screed stated that he perpetrated the shooting because he believed in the so-called great replacement, a conspiracy theory that nonwhite people are being brought into the United States and other Western countries to “replace” white people.

The indictment’s charges carry the possibility of life imprisonment or the death penalty. The Justice Department said it will decide whether or not to seek Gendron’s death at a later time.

Before his confirmation, however, Garland expressed his ambivalence about the death penalty.

“I have had a great pause about the death penalty,” Garland said. “I am very concerned about the large number of exonerations that have occurred through DNA evidence and otherwise, not only in death penalty convictions, but also in other convictions.”

Roughly a year ago, Garland ordered a moratorium on the death penalty while the Justice Department reviews its policies and procedures.

Gendron faces a battery of other charges, including murder, at the state level.

Read the federal indictment, below:

(Photo by Matt Burkhartt/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."