Buffalo shooting suspect indicted on federal hate crime charges
A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted the suspect in a mass shooting that killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo, N.Y. supermarket on 14 federal hate crime charges and 13 federal firearms charges, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.
Prosecutors could seek the death penalty against Payton Gendron, 19, if convicted, and DOJ said Attorney General Merrick Garland will make the decision at a later date.
“The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” Garland said in a release. “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.”
The suspect’s attorneys said last week during a state trial for the shooting that they were told prosecutors would take a year to decide if they would seek the death penalty for the hate crime charges, which the prosecutors filed roughly a month ago.
That state trial is proceeding after a judge rejected a request from Gendron’s attorneys to delay the trial while the federal charges proceed.
A grand jury in the state trial had indicted the suspect on 21 charges last month, including hate-motivated domestic terrorism, first-degree murder, attempted murder and murder as a hate crime. Gendron later pleaded not guilty.
The suspect allegedly drove about three hours from his home to the predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, where he killed 10 and injured three others at the Tops supermarket.
DOJ said the federal hate crime charges allege that he willfully caused the death of the victims because of their race and color.
Gendron has reportedly touted the so-called “great replacement theory,” a far-right conspiracy alleging a push to replace white Americans with people of color.
The federal indictment also claims the suspect killed the victims after “substantial” planning and premeditation to commit an act of terrorism, according to DOJ.
He had reportedly invited people to a chatroom just before the shooting, and his private server allegedly included racist content and plans for the shooting dating back six months.
The Buffalo mass shooting and a massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas gained nationwide attention and once again sparked a nationwide debate over gun control.
Congress passed a gun safety package late last month, a law celebrated by President Biden on Monday as he called for further gun measures, like an assault weapons ban.