Buffalo mass shooting: What we know so far

A white gunman in military gear shot and killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket in the US state of New York on Saturday, in what authorities called an act of “racially motivated violent extremism”.

The site of the mass shooting, Tops Friendly Market, is located in the heart of Buffalo’s Black community.

The suspect, who appeared to have acted alone, drove to Buffalo from his home several hours away armed with an assault-style rifle.

Shocked residents gathered on Sunday at vigils and church services to mourn and pay tribute to the victims.

Here is what we know so far:

Who is the shooter?

Police have identified the gunman as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York in the United States. The white 18-year-old drove from the small town located about 320 kilometres (200 miles) southeast of Buffalo and began shooting in the parking lot.

He surrendered and dropped the gun with coaxing from the officers after the shooting.

Gendron was wearing a helmet camera, through which he livestreamed the shooting to a small audience on Twitch for several minutes before the platform cut off his feed.

The rifle used in the attack was purchased legally, but the magazines used for ammunition were not allowed to be sold in New York.

After the shooting, Gendron appeared before a judge in a paper medical gown and was arraigned on a murder charge. He has entered a plea of not guilty and is scheduled to return to court on May 19.

What was the motive behind the attack?

Officials are investigating the shooting as a racially motivated hate crime.

“This was pure evil. It was straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the City of Good neighbours … coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said at a news briefing on Saturday.

The FBI is investigating the shooting as both a “hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism”.

Screenshots purporting to be from the live Twitch broadcast appear to show a racial epithet scrawled on the rifle used in the attack, as well as the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.

A 180-page manifesto circulated widely online and believed to have been authored by Gendron outlined “The Great Replacement Theory” – a racist conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by minorities in the US and other countries.

Mourners react while attending a vigil for victims of the shooting at a TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
The Tops Friendly Market is located in the heart of Buffalo’s Black community [Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

The document outlined racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic beliefs, among which was a desire to drive all people not of European descent from the US.

Another document circulating online that appeared to have been written by Gendron sketched out a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the gun and testing the livestream.

Authorities have declined to officially comment on the manifesto.

What does the preliminary investigation say?

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Gendron had threatened to carry out a shooting last year at Susquehanna Valley High School around the time of graduation.

New York State Police said troopers were called to the Conklin school on June 8, 2021, when he was 17 years old. He was then sent for mental health treatment.

The official said investigators believed Gendron had specifically researched the demographics of the population around the Tops Friendly Market.

In a Sunday interview with ABC, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said that Gendron had been in town “at least the day before”.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, said an investigation into the massacre would focus on how Gendron managed to get away with it when he was known to authorities and presented a threat.

“I want to know what people knew and when they knew it,” she said, adding that social media must also be more vigilant and avoid hosting a “feeding frenzy” of violent extremist ideology.

Did the shooter have white supremacy links?

The preliminary investigation found Gendron had repeatedly visited sites espousing white supremacist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories and extensively researched the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the man who killed dozens at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, the law enforcement official told AP.

US President Joe Biden decried the shooting as “abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation” in a statement on Saturday.

Hochul, the New York governor, said that “these depraved ideas are fermenting on social media – it’s spreading like a virus now,” adding that a lack of oversight could lead others to emulate the shooter.

Is gun violence common in the US?

Mass shootings have become a sadly familiar scene across the US. The Buffalo attack is the latest in a string of high-profile mass shootings in the country this year, the second in the state of New York in as many months.

It came just a month after a shooting on a Brooklyn subway wounded 10 and just over a year after 10 were killed in a shooting at a Colorado supermarket.

In the deadliest school shooting in the US last year, four students were killed and seven other people were wounded after a teenager opened fire at a high school in Oxford, Michigan.

According to the FBI, there were 345 “active shooter incidents” in the US between 2000-2020, resulting in more than 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries.