Shoppers in and around a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday detailed being forced to hide behind cars, calling for help as a gunman killed 10 people and injured three. others in a mass shooting that authorities believe to be racially motivated.
Grady Lewis said he was outside the supermarket when he heard seven or eight shots and described seeing a white man “fully prepared, ready to go”, dressed in tactical gear, spraying gunfire at the entrance to the store, located in the heart. of the city’s black community.
Law enforcement arrived within two minutes of the start of the shooting, Lewis told CNN affiliate WKBW. He “heard at least twenty shots” before the suspect left the store.
“He came out, he put the gun to his temple, to his chin. Then he dropped him and took off his body armor, then got down on his knees and put his hands behind his back,” Lewis said, describing the times the suspect was arrested by police. “I thought they were going to shoot him but they didn’t shoot him.”
“I still don’t believe it happened…that a person walked into a supermarket full of people,” he said. “It was awful, it was really awful.”
A woman told WKBW she received a distressing phone call from her ‘scared and hysterical’ 19-year-old granddaughter who was at the supermarket and heard gunshots. The woman ran to the scene and found her granddaughter outside the store.
“I can’t even explain it, how grateful I am to God that she’s okay because she could have been any of the other people,” she told WKBW.
Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, an Erie County Medical Center spokesperson told CNN on Saturday night, and a third injured person has been released.
Of the 13 victims, 11 were black and two were white, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.
The suspect, Payton S. Gendron, an 18-year-old white man, has been charged with first-degree murder, prosecutors said. He pleaded not guilty in court Saturday night, Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah told CNN.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” according to a statement from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. The FBI and ATF are coordinating with local and state law enforcement in their investigations, the statement said.
The shooting was a “racially motivated hate crime committed by someone outside of our community,” Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia said Saturday. “It was pure evil.”
At around 2:30 p.m., authorities allege the suspect — who is from the town of Conklin, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Buffalo in western New York — drove to Tops Friendly Markets near the neighborhoods of Masten Park and Kingsley, which are predominantly black neighborhoods.
Wearing tactical gear and armed with an “assault weapon,” the suspect allegedly shot and killed three people in the parking lot and injured a fourth, according to a statement from Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
The suspect then entered the store and exchanged fire with an armed security guard, who was a retired member of the Buffalo Police Department, the statement said.
However, because the suspect was wearing heavy tactical gear, the guard’s bullets had no effect, Gramaglia said on Saturday.
“He was very heavily armed,” the police commissioner said. “He had tactical gear, he had a tactical helmet, he had a camera that he was live streaming what he was doing.”
Inside the store, nine people were shot before the suspect was apprehended by police, with the caretaker and six others dying of their injuries, according to the district attorney’s statement.
In a statement sent to CNN, live-streaming service Twitch confirmed the footage was broadcast and said the user “has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring of any account reposting this content”.
CNN obtained part of the live stream showing the suspect arriving at the supermarket in his vehicle and is not showing the video.
After the shooting, investigators obtained “some evidence” that “indicates some racial animosity” from the suspect, Flynn said at a Saturday news conference.
“I’m not going to… elaborate on what exactly they are right now, but we have evidence in custody right now that shows there is a racial component to it,” Flynn said.
Investigators are reviewing an alleged 180-page manifesto that was posted online in connection with the shooting, two federal law enforcement sources told CNN.
The manifesto, independently obtained by CNN shortly after the attack and before authorities released the suspect’s name, was allegedly written by a person claiming to be Payton Gendron confessing to the attack.
The author of the manifesto says he bought ammunition for a while but did not take planning for the attack seriously until January. The author continues on his perceptions of the shrinking size of the white population and claims of white ethnic and cultural replacement, and describes himself as a fascist, white supremacist and anti-Semite.
Additional charges can be filed alongside the first-degree murder charge, Flynn said, and the suspect faces a maximum of life in prison without parole if convicted.
President Joe Biden condemned the shooting in a statement Saturday night and said he mourned the families of those lost.
“We still need to know more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement does their job, but we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth. : a racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” he said. “Hate must have no safe harbor.”
“This is the worst nightmare any community can face and we are hurting and bubbling right now as a community,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. “The depth of pain the families are feeling and that we are all feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
Speaking about the alleged motive for the shooting, Darius G. Pridgen — the Buffalo City Council president and senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church — told CNN’s Pamela Brown that he hopes it’s understood that the relationship racial lines in the city need not be frayed and that the shooting was the act of an “evil” individual outside the community.
“The same way I don’t want to see black people painted with a wide brush if we have a black person (doing bad), they’re like, ‘Oh, those black people. So at the end of the day, I don’t want to see the same thing happen in our community with black and white relations,” Pridgen said.
“He was not a white man from Buffalo. He was a white person who was evil, so I don’t want to see all white people painted and have tension between blacks and whites because of who should serve their sentence.