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Buffalo Grocery Store Mass Shooting Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to Hate Crime and Federal Weapons Charges

A mugshot released by the Erie County District Attorney's Office shows Payton S. Gendron, 18, who is accused of killing ten people in a Buffalo, New York grocery store on Sat., May 14, 2022.

A mugshot released by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office shows Payton S. Gendron, 18, who is accused of killing ten people in a Buffalo, New York grocery store on Sat., May 14, 2022.

The man accused of killing 10 Black people at an upstate New York grocery store in May has pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime and weapons charges.

Payton Gendron, 19, entered his plea Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

Gendron was 18 years old when he allegedly opened fire at Tops Friendly Market, a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, on May 14, killing 10 people and injuring three. Armed with a high-powered automatic rifle, Gendron carried out the attack while wearing body armor, a tactical-style helmet, and camouflage clothing, prosecutors say.

He is also believed to have live-streamed the attack after having posted a racist online screed, professing his belief in the so-called great replacement conspiracy theory, which says that non-white people are being brought into the country to further a political agenda that will result in the extinction of white people.

Gendron, who is from Conklin, New York, allegedly drove more than three hours to target Black shoppers at the neighborhood store. The 10 people who died were Black, as were two of the three people injured.

Roberta Drury, Pearl Young, and Heyward Patterson were killed outside Tops. The seven victims killed inside were Ruth Whitfield, Celestine Chaney, Aaron W. Satler, Jr., Andrew Mackniel, Margus Morrison, Katherine Massey, and Geraldine Talley.

As Law&Crime previously reported, Gendron was indicted on 27 federal charges in June. Those charges include 10 charges of committing a hate crime resulting in death, three counts of a hate crime involving bodily injury and attempt to kill, 10 counts of the use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence, and three counts of the use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

“We are asking the court to enter a plea of not guilty,” attorney Sonya Zoghlin, a federal public defender, told Schroeder at the arraignment on Monday.

Zoghlin also signaled that while Gendron was pleading not guilty at this time, he and his lawyers are looking to settle the case, telling the judge that they were “hopeful that we can resolve this matter” ahead of trial.

A representative of the court had told Law&Crime that Gendron would personally appear for the arraignment. He did not speak on his own behalf.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Tripi asked Schroeder for a 45-day time period to produce discovery to the defense. Schroeder granted this request, and reminded Tripi of the prosecution’s obligation to provide any exculpatory evidence to Gendron’s lawyers.

Zoghlin, in turn, requested that Schroeder set a status conference for 90 days after that. Schroeder agreed, and set the next hearing for Dec. 9.

Schroeder also agreed to exclude that time under the Speedy Trial Act, noting that both sides acknowledged the “voluminous” amount of discovery in the case. However, Schroeder also said that the public was a “third party beneficiary” of Gendron’s constitutional right to a speedy trial, indicating that he may not be inclined to repeatedly suspend the clock.

At the end of the hearing, Schroeder ordered that the U.S. Marshals Service return Gendron to state custody. He is currently facing 10 first-degree murder charges, as well as terrorism and hate crime charges.

Over in state court, Gendron is the first person prosecuted under New York’s hate crime law. He faces up to life in prison on the state charges. The federal charges also carry a potential sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.

[Image via Erie County District Attorney’s Office.]

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