The 18-year-old man accused of killing 10 Black people in a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., in May has been charged with federal hate crimes and could face the death penalty, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.
The suspect, Payton Gendron, was charged with 26 counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Western District of New York.
Gendron was arraigned earlier this month on more than two dozen state-level counts, including domestic terrorism motivated by hate — a charge that carries a punishment of life in prison without parole. He pleaded not guilty.
Attorney General Merrick Garland held a brief press conference in Buffalo after meeting with families of the victims.
“Hate-fueled acts of violence terrorize not only the individuals who are attacked but entire communities,” he said. “Hate brings immediate devastation, and it inflicts lasting fear.
“... We fully recognize the threat that hatred and violent extremism pose to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” Garland continued. “We will be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.
“No one in this country should have to live in fear,” he added.
Authorities say Gendron posted a manifesto online detailing his plans to target Buffalo’s Black population, driving nearly 300 miles from his home in Conklin, N.Y., with an AR-15-style rifle to carry out the attack at Tops Friendly Market, which he livestreamed with a helmet camera.
He surrendered to authorities at the scene.
The 180-page manifesto contained a litany of racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories, including the “great replacement” theory that people in power are replacing white Americans with people of color through immigration. The baseless, once-fringe conspiracy theory has been echoed by numerous Republican politicians and right-wing media figures, including Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“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,” according to the criminal complaint filed in the Western District of New York.
At one point during the shooting, the complaint alleges, Gendron aimed his rifle at a white male employee who had been shot in the leg. Instead of shooting the white employee, the gunman apologized to him before continuing his attack.
Ten people were killed, and three others were injured in the May 14 massacre.
The rampage in Buffalo, followed 10 days later by a deadly mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has reignited the national debate over gun control.
On Sunday, a bipartisan group of senators led by Chris Murphy, D-Conn., announced an agreement on principle for new gun safety legislation that includes “needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons.”