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Grand jury indicts accused Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect on federal hate crimes charges

Accused Buffalo shooter could face death penalty
Accused Buffalo grocery store shooter could face death penalty 05:07

Washington – A federal grand jury has indicted the 19-year-old White man accused of killing 10 Black people and wounding others at a Buffalo, NY  supermarket in May on hate crimes and weapons charges, the Justice Department announced Thursday. 

Prosecutors allege Payton Gendron opened fire outside and inside the Tops supermarket with a Bushmaster XM rifle on May 14, targeting the victims because of their race. Eleven of the 13 individuals shot that day were black. Gendron, the Justice Department said, "committed the offense after substantial planning and premeditation to commit an act of terrorism." 

The 27-count indictment, which includes 14 alleged federal hate crimes and 13 weapons charges, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty if convicted. According to the Justice Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland – who visited the scene of the massacre and visited with victims' families last month – will decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later date.  

In a statement, Garland said, "The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy. 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 indictment comes nearly a month after federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint comprised of similar charges against the alleged shooter. According to that criminal complaint, "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."

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A memorial to the dead in the Tops grocery store mass shooting is shown during a March For Our Lives event on June 11, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.  Matt Burkhartt / Getty Images

The complaint detailed the shooter's movements from the grocery store parking lot into the building, where he allegedly fired at mostly Black patrons and a security guard. At one point, he allegedly turned his gun toward another White man lying on the ground with an injured leg. Instead of shooting the victim, the alleged shooter merely said "sorry" and continued shooting elsewhere, the affidavit says. It went on to say that etched on the rifle used in the shooting allegedly were names of others who had committed similar atrocities and phrases including "Here's your reparations!" and "The Great Replacement."

Following the massacre, the FBI said it recovered a letter in the suspect's home, apologizing for the attack and explaining he "had to commit this attack" because he cares "for the future of the White race." 

The alleged shooter, who was 18 at the time of the attack, has been charged with hate crimes in New York at the state level. He has been in custody since the shooting and pleaded not guilty to all charges at the state and federal levels. 

The Tops market where the shooting occurred has remained closed in the two months since the attack but is set to reopen on Friday. 

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