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DOJ charges Buffalo gunman with hate crimes, and says he apologized to a white victim

Investigators work the scene last month after the mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.
Matt Rourke
Investigators work the scene last month after the mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.

Updated June 15, 2022 at 1:22 PM ET

Payton Gendron is now facing numerous counts of federal hate crimes and weapons charges related to the May 14 deadly assault on a Tops grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

Gendron is accused of killing 10 Black people, and wounding three other people — one Black person and two white people.

The federal complaint lists 26 criminal counts against Gendron, 18, including 10 counts of a hate crime resulting in death.

The complaint alleges that Gendron's "motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks."

The gunman live-streamed his actions on the internet.

The gunman allegedly apologized to a white man in the store

The federal complaint gives a new account of Gendron's movements through the store, up and down its aisles. It also alleges that he apologized to at least one of his white victims:

"After Gendron killed Victim 7, he turned and aimed his rifle at a white male Tops employee ("Victim 8"), who, at some point during the attack, had been shot in the leg and injured. Rather than shooting him, Gendron said, "sorry," to Victim 8, before moving on through the rest of the store in search of more Black people to shoot and kill. At some point during the attack, one of the shots also struck a white female Tops employee ("Victim 9") in the pharmacy area of the store, which is located near the checkout lanes. Victims 8 and 9 survived the attack."

The criminal complaint also mentions another apology, from Gendron to his family.

When the FBI searched the gunman's house in Conklin, N.Y., they found a handwritten note in his bedroom apologizing to his family for what he called "this attack," according to the complaint. That note also allegedly said Gendron was compelled to violence "because he cares 'for the future of the White race.' "

The complaint was signed by FBI Special Agent Christopher J. Dlugokinski, who is leading the FBI's investigation into the case.

Gendron is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service, according to the Justice Department. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the new federal charges in a U.S. district court at 10:30 a.m. ET Thursday morning.

He is also facing numerous state charges, including domestic terrorism motivated by hate and 10 counts of first-degree murder.

Hate was quickly seen as the motive for the mass shooting

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, local officials described it as "an absolute racist hate crime," noting that the gunman drove some 200 miles from his small hometown to Buffalo.

Those suspicions were then largely confirmed when an online screed attributed to Gendron emerged that embraced white supremacist ideology and mentioned a plan to target Black people in their own community.

In addition to the threat of racist extremism in the U.S., the Buffalo shooting — and the Uvalde school shooting that followed soon afterward — gave new urgency to calls for new gun laws.

Across the country, there have been 267 mass shootings so far this year, according to the independentGun Violence Archive.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.