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Hold accountable those who radicalize people into "hate-mongers," Ben Crump says after Buffalo mass shooting

Son of Buffalo shooting victim speaks out
Son of Buffalo supermarket shooting victim discusses mass shooting and legacy of his mother 05:15

As the city of Buffalo, N.Y., and the nation, reacts to Saturday's mass shooting in a predominantly Black neighborhood in which 13 people were shot, 10 fatally, an attorney for the family of an 86-year-old grandmother who was killed is calling for those who radicalize white supremacists to be held accountable.

In a statement released Sunday, attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family of Ruth Whitfield, said, "Yesterday, we witnessed the deadliest mass shooting of 2022, perpetrated by a self-proclaimed white supremacist who set out to do one thing: kill Black people. … We are thoroughly investigating the shooting and the events leading up to it."

Appearing on "CBS Mornings" on Monday, Crump said, "It's important that we not only hold accountable this individual who committed this hateful act, but we hold accountable those who curate this hate, who radicalize these young white supremacists."

Police say Payton Gendron, 18, traveled about 200 miles from his home in Conklin, N.Y., to Buffalo to commit the attack, for which he was heavily armed and wearing tactical gear. He was taken into custody and has been charged with first-degree murder, in what officials are calling a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism. Gendron has pleaded not guilty.

Referring to a lengthy, conspiracy theory-filled document that the shooter reportedly posted online just prior to the attack, Crump noted, "He said his intent was to kill as many Black people as he could that day. We saw in Charleston, South Carolina, with the young white supremacist Dylann Roof, and now we're here in Buffalo, New York. How long before we get the anti-Black hate crime bill passed? Because if we don't do something meaningful, I am so afraid that we will see something like this happen again in our community.

"We have to direct our attention to these internet sites that inspire these young people that are radicalizing them to be hate-mongers, to be people who hate people because the color of their skin."

Garnell Whitfield, son of 86-year-old shooting victim Ruth Whitfield, and family attorney Ben Crump. CBS News

Also on "CBS Mornings," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said that the initial investigation indicates that the shooting was a premeditated attack. "[He] wanted to kill as many Black people as possible. If not for the heroic action of the security officer, retired Buffalo police lieutenant, he would have been more successful in that effort. If not for the quick response of the Buffalo Police Department, he certainly would have killed more people in this immediate area. 

"This was a racially-motivated attack. And it is scary to know that that kind of racism and hate still exists in our country," Brown said.

One of the ten people killed was an 86-year-old grandmother, Ruth Whitfield, who had stopped at the Tops supermarket after visiting her husband at a nearby nursing home, when she was murdered. 

Ruth Whitfield. Family Photo

Garnell Whitfield, a retired commissioner of the Buffalo Fire Department, told "CBS Mornings," "My parents were married for 67, 68 years. We were wonderfully blessed to have them all of this time. My father had taken ill and had been in this nursing home for the last eight years. My mom was there every day to take care of my father. Every day. She loved him completely. And she was doing what she did every day. And she left there and stopped by the store on the way home to get groceries and encountered this individual. 

"She didn't answer her phone. And the nursing home is just blocks from the scene here. Upon her not answering her phone, [I] just walked the scene here and was able to ascertain that her vehicle was in the lot here at the store."

When asked how his family is processing this news, Garnell said, "It's very difficult. This is just surreal. We are in a place that we never expected to be. My mother was the glue that held us together. My mother was my father's caretaker. 

"We've not shared this information with my father. We don't know if that's in his best interests. We don't know how to proceed. We have to consult with his caretakers, with his doctors, and find out, you know, how to proceed with this. We don't know if he should attend the memorial service. We don't know how we're going to care for him going forward in a manner consistent with what my mother would have wanted. And so, we have a tough road ahead." 

See also: 

Former Attorney General Eric Holder talks hate crimes, conspiracy theories and prevention 03:55
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