by Terrance Turner
May 14, 2022
Ten people were killed and three others were injured in a mass shooting Saturday afternoon at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old from Conklin (more than 200 miles away from Buffalo) opened fire on shoppers and employees at Tops Friendly Markets on Jefferson Avenue in what authorities say was a racially motivated hate crime.
Gendron (who was heavily armed and wearing tactical gear, according to NBC News) drove more than three hours to launch his attack, which began in the parking lot around 2:30 pm. The gunman shot four people outside the store, three fatally, said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. Inside the store, a security guard (a retired Buffalo police officer) fired at the gunman. But the bullet had no impact because of Gendron’s body armor. The gunman then fired back, killing the security guard, and continued throughout the store. (He shot nine more people, per ABC News.)
Eyewitnesses described a scene of terror. According to the Washington Post, Grady Lewis was outside the store and said he saw a White man outfitted for war, wearing military-style fatigues and holding a firearm in his hands. He said he couldn’t believe what was unfolding before his eyes. Lewis said the man opened fire, pointing the gun left and right as he indiscriminately shot people. Lewis heard more than two dozen shots as the man went inside the grocery store, he said.
Not long after the shooter entered the store, he walked outside and placed the gun under his chin as if he was going to pull the trigger, Lewis said. Surrounded by police, he instead dropped the gun, removed his bulletproof vest, and knelt to the ground, Lewis said. He was then taken into custody.
“It was unbelievable,” Lewis said. “I mean, you might get robbed out here, but people don’t really shoot people out here.”
The accused gunman was arraigned Saturday evening before Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah on a first-degree murder charge. If convicted, he faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The gunman fired over 50 rounds of ammunition, per ABC News. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the AR-15 used in the shooting was purchased legally in a gun store in New York state but was illegally modified with a high-capacity magazine.
“What has made this so lethal, and so devastating for this community, was the high-capacity magazine that would have had to have been purchased elsewhere, that’s not legal in the state of New York,” she said.
A government official told the Buffalo News that the semi-automatic rifle that Gendron used in the shooting had the N-word spelled out in white paint on the barrel. It also contained the number 14. The official said “14” refers to a 14-word statement popular among white supremacists. The Anti-Defamation League explains that “14 words” is a reference to the most popular white supremacist slogan in the world: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
Of the 13 people shot, 11 were Black and two were White, Gramaglia said. All 10 victims who died in the attack are Black – six females and four males ranging from age 32 to 86, law enforcement officials said. (The three injured victims were taken to Erie County Medical Center. A hospital spokesman said one was released and two others were in stable condition Saturday night.) The market was located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, per the Washington Post.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the shooting as a hate crime, according to a statement from Attorney General Merrick Garland. Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia said as much in a news conference: “This was pure evil: a straight-up racially motivated hate crime,” Garcia said.
That conclusion is supported by a manifesto that the shooter allegedly wrote. The 100-plus-page document was posted to Google Docs at 8:55 pm on Thursday, per NBC News. The author shares a date of birth and biographic information with the gunman. It indicates that the shooter chose Buffalo because it is the city with the highest number of Black people in his vicinity.
The document includes dozens of pages of racist and anti-Semitic memes. The Seattle Times reports that the document named the Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle he would use, constructed a full timeline of the day (including where he’d eat and live-stream the attack) and a detailed plan of action: the author wrote that he would shoot a security guard, then fire on Black shoppers — shooting them twice in the chest, if he could.
The gunman wrote that he was inspired by terrorist Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black parishioners in a church in Charleston, North Carolina in 2015. He also felt connected to other killers, like Brenton Harrison Tarrant (who was sentenced to life in prison for killing 51 Muslims during Friday prayer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand). Like Tarrant, Gendron live-streamed his attack: he entered the store wearing a camera that he was using to broadcast the murders.
The document also cited the “white replacement theory”, a right-wing conspiracy theory that says that white Americans are being replaced by people of color (including immigrants) as part of some kind of plot. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the theory “has its roots in early 20th century French nationalism and books by French nationalist and author Maurice Barres. However, it was French writer and critic Renaud Camus who popularized the phrase for today’s audiences when he published an essay titled “Le Grand Remplacement,” or “the great replacement,” in 2011.”
- Per the ADL, Camus believes that native white Europeans are being replaced in their countries by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, and the end result will be the extinction of the white race. Camus focused on Muslim immigration to Europe and the theory that Muslims and other non-white populations had a much higher birth rate than whites.
- The theory was cited by the gunman who opened fire and killed at least 20 people at a Wamart in El Paso, TX in 2019. He claimed in his manifesto that the El Paso attack is a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” that he is merely defending his country from “cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion,” and that he hopes his attack will provide an “incentive” for migrants to return home. He also claimed he did not intend to target the Hispanic community until he read “The Great Replacement,” by Renaud Camus.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson has espoused the theory on his talk show, playing a clip of President Joe Biden speaking about “an unrelenting stream of immigration.” Carlson claimed Biden intended “to change the racial mix of the country. That’s the reason: to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the Third World.”
Carlson (falsely) decried this as “the language of eugenics,” calling it “horrifying”. He added: “In political terms, this policy is called the ‘great replacement theory,’ the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from faraway countries.” Carlson argued that Biden and the Democrats were using immigration to increase the number of likely Democratic voters.
Then he doubled down. In an appearance on “Fox News Primetime” in April 2021, Carlson told the host: “I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest for the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” Carlson said. “But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening. Let’s just say it! That’s true.”
“If you change the population, you dilute the political power of the people who live there,” he added later. “So every time they import a new voter, I’d become disenfranchised as a current voter. … Everyone wants to make a racial issue out of it. Oh, White replacement — No. This is a voting rights question. I have less political power because they’re importing a brand new electorate. Why should I sit back and take that?”