The alleged shooter made disturbing statements describing his motive and state of mind after his arrest, the official said. The statements were clear and filled with hatred towards the black community. Investigators also uncovered other information from search warrants and other methods indicating the alleged shooter was “investigating” past hate attacks and shootings, the official said.
The revelation comes a day after a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others at the Tops Friendly Markets store in a predominantly black Buffalo neighborhood. Eleven of the people who were shot were black, officials said.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday the attack was a racist hate crime and will be prosecuted as such.
“The evidence we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” he said. “He is someone who has hatred in his heart, soul and mind.”
Investigators believe the suspect acted on his own in the shooting, Gramaglia said. The suspect was in Buffalo a day before the shooting and did a reconnaissance at the Tops Friendly Markets store, the commissioner said.
The victims included a former Buffalo police lieutenant working as a security guard and the 86-year-old mother of Buffalo’s retired fire marshal, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, an Erie County Medical Center spokesperson said Saturday night.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said Gendron is currently on suicide watch.
The owner of a gun store in New York told the New York Times that the suspect had recently purchased a Bushmaster assault weapon. A background check on the suspect at the time showed nothing, Donald told The Times.
“I didn’t know until they called me. I couldn’t believe it,” said Robert Donald, whose store is in Endicott, about 200 miles from Buffalo.
“I can’t believe it. I don’t understand why an 18-year-old would do that,” he added. “I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but I feel bad about it.”
The suspect was targeting a predominantly black area
“We’re obviously going through this with a fine-tooth comb and reviewing this for any evidence that might lead us in addition to the manifesto itself,” Erie County District Attorney John Flynn told CNN’s Victor Blackwell.
The author of the manifesto says he bought ammunition for a while but did not take planning for the attack seriously until January.
“We continue to investigate this matter as a hate crime, a federal hate crime, and a crime perpetrated by a racially motivated violent extremist,” said Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office.
In the manifesto, the author says the Buffalo supermarket is in a ZIP code that “has the highest percentage of black people that is close enough to where I live.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul told CNN investigators the suspect targeted the busiest spot in that area at the busiest time.
“It was targeted by the zip code,” Hochul said. “It was the highest concentration of African Americans in a few hours.”
The zip code that includes the store, 14208, is 78% black, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. This is the highest percentage of black population of any zip code in upstate New York.
The suspected shooter had previously been on police radar, officials said.
As a student at Susquehanna Valley Central High School, he made a “widespread threat” in June 2021, Gramaglia said. The student was brought in for a mental health evaluation and was released after a day and a half, according to Gramaglia. The threat was not racist, he added.
A New York State Police spokesperson confirmed to CNN that they investigated and responded to a report that a 17-year-old student made “a threatening statement” in June 2021 at the same high school. The student was taken into custody and transported to hospital in June 2021 for a mental health evaluation.
State police were unable to confirm how long the individual was in the hospital or the results of the assessment. They also declined to name the 17-year-old.
Earlier Sunday, Hochul told ABC’s “This Week” that the suspect had previously been under medical surveillance for “something he wrote in high school.”
In his hometown, the suspect worked at the local Conklin Reliable Market for about four months and left about three months ago, according to the store owner. The owner described it as very quiet, while a neighbor also said “you wouldn’t get more than a word or two” from him.
How did the filming go
At around 2.30pm the suspect drove to Tops Friendly Markets near the Masten Park and Kingsley areas. Wearing tactical gear and armed with an assault weapon, the suspect allegedly shot and killed three people in the parking lot and injured a fourth, according to a statement from Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
The suspect then entered the store and exchanged fire with an armed security guard who was a retired member of the Buffalo Police Department, the district attorney said. The guard was identified as Aaron Salter, Brown said.
However, because the suspect was wearing heavy tactical gear, the guard’s bullets had no effect, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Saturday.
“He was very heavily armed,” the police commissioner said. “He had tactical gear, he had a tactical helmet, he had a camera that he was live streaming what he was doing.”
Inside the store, nine people were shot before the suspect was apprehended by police, according to the district attorney’s statement.
In a statement sent to CNN, live-streaming service Twitch confirmed the footage was broadcast and said the user “has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring of any account reposting this content”.
“He got out, he put the gun to his head, to his chin. Then he dropped it and took off his bulletproof vest, then got on all fours and put his hands behind his back “said Lewis, describing the times the suspect was arrested by police. “I thought they were going to shoot him but they didn’t shoot him.”
“I still don’t believe it happened…that a person walked into a supermarket full of people,” he said. “It was awful, it was really awful.”
Tops Friendly Markets released a statement on Sunday saying it was heartbroken by the violence. “Tops has been committed to this community and the City of Buffalo for decades and this tragedy will not change that commitment,” the company said.
CNN’s Samantha Beech, Tina Burnside, Travis Caldwell, Gregory Clary, Phil Gast, Jennifer Hauser, Chuck Johnston, Jamiel Lynch, Christina Maxouris, Artemis Moshtaghian, Sharif Paget, Shimon Prokupecz, Liam Reilly, Sabrina Shulman, Brian Stelter, Brian Todd and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.