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White gunman who killed 10 Black people in racist massacre pleads guilty to murder and terror charges

Payton Gendron has pleaded guilty to more than a dozen state charges against him after targeting predominantly Black neighbourhood in act of white supremacist-driven hate

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 28 November 2022 16:31 GMT
Related video: Biden condemns ‘poison’ of white supremacy following Buffalo shooting

The white 19-year-old gunman accused of killing 10 Black shoppers and employees at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, has pleaded guilty to all state charges against him, convictions that guarantee a life prison sentence.

Payton Gendron pleaded guilty in Erie County Court on 28 November to 10 counts of first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime, and one count of domestic terrorism motivated by hate, among other charges.

He still faces federal hate crime charges, among others.

A conviction of first-degree domestic terrorism motivated by hate includes an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole. Gendron is scheduled to be sentenced on 15 February.

He was arrested immediately after the 14 May racist massacre, carried out with an AR-15 rifle and streamed live, an attack that he had planned for months, leaving behind a digital footprint of online writings that traced his path to radicalisation and white supremacist hate.

Gendron drove roughly 200 miles to the predominantly Black community from his home to carry out the attack.

He also wrote about visiting the store months before the attack, noting the presence of security guards and mapping out the store’s interior. Before the attack, he uploaded his plans and diary to social media.

With body armour strapped across his chest and a Go Pro camera mounted to a helmet on his head, Gendron livestreamed the massacre, systematically killing Black shoppers and employees inside the Tops market. He then stood outside the market and placed the rifle under his chin before police commanded him to stop. The rampage lasted roughly two minutes.

If convicted on all 27 federal charges, Gendron could face the death penalty or a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement in July that the US Department of Justice “fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy.”

A makeshift memorial for victims of the Tops massacre recognises the 10 people killed in the attack. (Getty Images)

Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a 49-page report that found that platforms and content from a constellation of websites – including 4chan, Reddit, Twitch and Discord – had paved Gendron’s path to violent radicalisation and “were weaponized to publicize and encourage copycat violent attacks.”

“The Buffalo shooter was galvanized by his belief that others would be watching him commit violence in real-time,” she said in the report. “Livestreaming has become a tool of mass shooters to instantaneously publicize their crimes, further terrorizing the public and the communities targeted by the shooter. Livestreaming is also used by shooters as a mechanism to incite and solicit additional violent acts.”

Ms James’s office urged state lawmakers to make it illegal for people to post or re-share videos of such killings, and to consider holding companies civilly liable when their platforms are used to broadcast violence.

“For too long, hate and division have been spreading rampant on online platforms – and as we saw in my hometown of Buffalo, the consequences are devastating,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement accompanying the report, which was commissioned by her office.

The victims killed in the attack include Pearl Young, Ruth Whitfield, Margus Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Aaron Salter Jr, Geraldine Talley, Katherine Massey, Roberta Drury, Heyward Patterson and Celestine Chaney.

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