Avowed antisemite, white supremacist kills 10 in Buffalo, NY, supermarket shooting

FBI Special Agent Stephen Belongia said the attack would be investigated both as a hate crime and as an act of "racially motivated violent extremism."

Police officers secure the scene after a shooting at TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York, US, May 15, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/JEFFREY T. BARNES)
Police officers secure the scene after a shooting at TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York, US, May 15, 2022.

An 18-year-old white gunman, identified as Payton Gendron from Southern Tier, New York, shot 10 people to death and wounded three others at a grocery store in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, before surrendering to authorities, who called it a hate crime and an act of "racially motivated violent extremism."

Authorities said the suspect, who was armed with an assault-style rifle and appeared to have acted alone, drove to Buffalo from his home in a New York county "hours away" to target the store in an attack he broadcast on the internet. Eleven of the 13 people struck by gunfire were Black, officials said.

The suspect, who was not immediately named by police, was heavily armed and dressed in tactical gear, including body armor, police said.

When confronted by officers in a vestibule of the store, the suspect held a gun to his own neck but they talked him into dropping the weapon and surrendering, Buffalo police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news briefing.

Gramaglia said the gunman shot and killed three people in the parking lot of the Tops Friendly Market before exchanging fire with a former police officer working as a security guard for the store, but the suspect was protected by his body armor.

Police officers secure the scene after a shooting at TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York, US, May 14, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/JEFFREY T. BARNES)Police officers secure the scene after a shooting at TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York, US, May 14, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/JEFFREY T. BARNES)

The guard was one of the 10 people shot to death in the incident, the nine others all being customers. Three other employees of the store, part of a regional chain, were wounded but are expected to survive, authorities said.

Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau's Buffalo field office, said the attack would be investigated both as a hate crime and as an act of "racially motivated violent extremism" under federal law.

"This person was pure evil," Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said, his voice quaking with emotion. "It was a straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community."

The suspect was expected to make his first court appearance to face murder charges by day's end, officials said.

"This is a day of great pain for our community," Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown told reporters. "Many of us have been in and out of this supermarket many times. ... We cannot let this hateful person divide our community or our country."

Brown said he had received calls from the White House and New York's attorney general, Letitia James.

US Representative Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the attack appeared to be the work of a violent white supremacist.

"We must pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, without delay," he wrote on Twitter.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in a statement noted that the shooter held white supremacist and antisemitic views, citing a manifesto Gendron posted prior to the attack that said his goal was to "spread awareness to my fellow whites about the real problems the West is facing," and "encourage further attacks that will eventually start the way that will save the Western world."

The ADL added that Gendron made numerous references to the antisemitic Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which claims that Jews are causing increasing numbers of non-white people to emigrate to the United States, eventually replacing white people and causing their extinction.

Gendron's manifesto also advocated for a war between gentiles and Jews, the ADL added. "Jews are the biggest problem the Western world has ever had," Gendron said. "They must be called out and killed, if they are lucky they will be exiled. We can not show any sympathy towards them again."

Gendron attempted to stream the attack live on Twitch, but the stream was taken down. In the manifesto, he writes that he was inspired to do this by another shooter who attacked a synagogue in Halle, Germany in 2019, and streamed the attack.

ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt compared Gendron's ideology to that of the Pittsburgh and Poway synagogue shooters, as well as the El Paso synagogue hostage-taker and the Charleston church shooter.

"While details of the horrific shooting in Buffalo are still emerging, there are already strong indicators that the individual who allegedly carried out this attack was heavily influenced by white supremacist ideology, including the virulently antisemitic and racist ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory," Greenblatt said. "Make no mistake: This is the same hateful antisemitic bile that inspired the shooters in Pittsburgh, Poway, El Paso and Charleston."

"This was yet another predicable attack by an avowed white supremacist who imbibed hateful conspiracy theories online and then turned to violent action, this time targeting mostly Black victims," he added. "We cannot remain complacent in the face of this continuing and serious national security threat. More must be done – now – to push back against the racist and antisemitic violence propounded by the far right."

Greenblatt added that the latest shooting is a reminder of the critical need to call out white supremacy and hate.

"This shooting is a deadly reminder of the dangers of white supremacy, and the need to call out these hateful views at every opportunity. We need our elected leaders at all levels to have the political will to pass meaningful legislation that will hold anyone involved in spreading white supremacist conspiracy theories to account and to stop potentially violent terrorists before they commit a crime."

"We extend our thoughts and prayers to victims and their families of this horrific hate crime, and we stand in solidarity with the African American community at this difficult time."

The Jewish Federations of North America likewise extended its condolences to the victims of the shooting and their families, stating in a Facebook post, "Jewish Federations are horrified at the news of the racially motivated shooting in Buffalo and reports of the gunman's racist and antisemitic 'manifesto.' We must all stand together to defeat the vile hatred of racism. Our hearts are with the victims and their families, and we mourn with the Buffalo community."

"My heart is yet again broken after learning about the tragic and violent loss of life in Buffalo this weekend," said Tree of Life's Rabbi Jeffrey Myers. "We grieve with the friends and families of those killed. Every life lost is the loss of an entire world, with devastating consequences that ripple outward in untold directions. We pray for the speedy and complete recovery of all who were injured, and that those who must now mourn will be comforted. May the memories of those lost be a blessing.

“Like the virulent antisemitism that fueled violence in our community, racism and white supremacy are deadly. Hate destroys lives, families, our individual sense of safety, and our democracy. But we knew that before today, and our moment to act on this knowledge was before today. In this moment of grief, I am reminded of the words Rabbi Hillel: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But when I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?’ We must be for each other, and we must begin now.”