Authorities say that the gunman who killed 10 people in a shooting spree at a Buffalo, New York grocery store on Saturday, was taken into custody last year and given a mental health evaluation after threatening to commit a school shooting.
Police released details of the suspected shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, on Sunday, providing a fuller portrait of the suspect. Authorities believe that the suspect, who published a manifesto prior to livestreaming the shooting on Twitch, deliberately targeted his victims based on race.
Authorities described Gendron’s actions as an act of “racially motivated extremism.” Gendron, who wore a “sonnenrad,” a symbol used by white nationalist groups and most notably Ukraine’s Azov Battalion in their official logo mimicked the Christchurch mass shooter by writing white supremacist messages and phrases on his firearm, including the names of other mass shooters.
Gendron’s sprawling 180-page manifesto also backs up the claim that Gendron was motivated by racial hate.
"The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake this is an absolute racist hate crime that will be prosecuted as a hate crime," Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters on Sunday.
Gendron surrendered to police after the shooting spree, which saw a total of 13 people shot. 11 of the victims were black. Gendron was charged with first-degree murder and immediately given a special arraignment following his arrest.
If convicted, Gendron faces life in prison without parole. He pleaded not guilty.
In his manifesto, Gendron stated that his goal was to surrender to the police and that he desired to witness the outcome of the events following his arrest.
Authorities said on Sunday that the suspect drove to Buffalo from his home several hours away on Friday to reconnoiter the location. On Saturday, he drove to the Tops Friendly Market, where he broadcasted his killings in real time on the Amazon-owned livestreaming service Twitch — links to which he had advertised on the websites 4chan and 8chan. The feed was promptly removed minutes after being reported by viewers.
Armed with a semi-automatic rifle and dressed in tactical garb, Gendron opened fire on several shoppers immediately after exiting his vehicle in the parking lot and made his way into the store, where he killed several others. Authorities recovered two other firearms — a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun — in his car.
Speaking to the press, Gramaglia said that Gendron first appeared on the radar of law enforcement last June after he was briefly detained for making a “generalized” threat at his high school. He was released after a day and a half following a mental health evaluation.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told ABVC News that an investigation would focus on what authorities could have done to prevent Gendron from carrying out the massacre, who appeared to have advertised his intent online for months before the shooting.
"I want to know what people knew and when they knew it," she said.