BUFFALO, NY (AP) — Federal agents interviewed the parents of the white 18-year-old accused 10 people shot and killed at a Buffalo convenience store and obtained multiple search warrants, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Federal authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page manifesto posted online detailing the conspiracy and identifying Payton Gendron by name as the shooter, the official said. Authorities say the shooting was motivated by racial hatred.
Gendron’s parents were cooperating with investigators, the official said. The officer was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation into Saturday afternoon’s shooting and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
A preliminary investigation revealed that Gendron had repeatedly visited websites where he campaigned white racist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories and extensively researched 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and the man who killed Dozens at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, the official said.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Gendron had traveled about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from his Conklin, New York, home of Buffalo and that particular grocery store, but investigators believe Gendron specifically studied the demographics of the population surrounding the Tops Friendly Market had researched and searched for communities with high African American populations, the official said. The market is in a predominantly black neighborhood.
“It’s just too much. I’m trying to bear witness, but it’s just too much. They can’t even go to the damn store in peace,” Buffalo resident Yvonne Woodard told the AP. “It’s just crazy.”
In a Sunday interview with ABC, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Gendron had been in town “at least the day before.”
“It seems like he came here to explore the area, to do a little reconnaissance work in the area before carrying out his simply evil, disgusting act,” Gramaglia said.
said the police Gendron shot a total of 11 blacks and two whites Saturday in a rampage that the 18-year-old televised live before surrendering to authorities. Screenshots said to be from the Twitch show appear to show a racist epithet scrawled on the gun used in the attack, as well as the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.
“We pray for their families. But after we pray – after we get off our knees – we must demand a change. We must demand justice,” Attorney General Letitia James said Sunday morning at an emotional service in Buffalo. “This was domestic terrorism, pure and simple.”
Among the dead was security guard Aaron Salter – a retired Buffalo police officer – who fired multiple shots at Gendron, Gramaglia said Saturday. A bullet hit the gunner’s armor but had no effect. Gendron then killed Salter before hunting down more victims.
“He cared about the community. He took care of the store,” said Yvette Mack, who shopped at Tops earlier on Saturday, of Salter. “He did a good job, you know. He was very nice and respectable.”
Also killed was Ruth Whitfield, 86, the mother of retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told churchgoers he saw the former fire officer at the scene Saturday while he was looking for his mother.
“My mother had just driven to my father’s house like she does every day at the nursing home and stopped at Tops just to buy some groceries. And no one has heard of her,” Whitfield told the mayor at the time. She was confirmed as a victim later in the day, Brown said.
Katherine Massey, who went to the store to get groceries, was also killed, according to the Buffalo News. The names of the remaining victims were not released.
Twitch said in a statement that it ended Gendron’s broadcast “less than two minutes after the violence began.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is from Buffalo, called on the tech industry to take responsibility for their role in spreading hate speech in a Sunday interview with ABC.
“The CEOs of these companies must be held accountable and reassured us all that they are taking every step humanly possible to monitor this information. How these tainted ideas ferment on social media — it’s now spreading like a virus,” she said, adding that a lack of oversight could lead others to emulate the shooter.
The mass shootings unsettled a nation plagued by racial tensions, gun violence and a spate of hate crimes. A day earlier, Dallas police said they would investigate shootings in the city’s Koreatown as a hate crime. The Buffalo attack came just a month after a shooting on a Brooklyn subway left 10 people injured and just over a year after 10 were killed in a Colorado supermarket shooting.
Gendron, who was confronted by police in the store’s anteroom, held a gun to his neck but was convinced to drop it. He was later charged with murder on Saturday and appeared before a judge in a paper coat.
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