Buffalo officials say gunman taunted police online

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The white gunman accused of massacring 10 black people in a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket mocked police online last month and visited Buffalo in March, investigators said. Monday.

Payton Gendron, 18, began posting threads on the social media platform Discord about bulletproof vests and guns, and last month made provocative comments about federal law enforcement, said Buffalo FBI Agent in Charge Stephen Belongia, in a call between law enforcement officials. and private sector and university partners. The Associated Press obtained a recording of the call.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia revealed that Gendron, who lives about 200 miles (320 kilometers) away in Conklin, New York, had been in Buffalo two months ago. Gramaglia declined to say more about that trip.

The police commissioner also told CNN that Gendron planned to continue killing had he escaped the scene and even spoke of shooting another store.

“He was going to get in his car and continue driving down Jefferson Avenue and continue doing the same thing,” Gramaglia said.

The commissioner’s account was similar to parts of a 180-page racist document, allegedly written by Gendron, that said the assault was intended to terrorize all non-white and non-Christian people into leaving the country. Federal authorities were working to confirm the authenticity of the document.

Authorities said Gendron wielded an AR-15-style rifle, wore a bulletproof vest and wore a helmet camera to live stream the bloodbath on the Internet. He turned himself in inside the supermarket and was booked on a murder charge over the weekend. He pleaded not guilty and was jailed on suicide watch.

Federal prosecutors said they are considering hate crime charges.

Former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr., who lost his 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, in the shooting, asked how the country could allow its history of racist killings to repeat itself.

“We are not only suffering. We’re angry,” Whitfield said at a news conference with civil rights attorney Ben Crump and others. “We treat people decently and love even our enemies.”

“And you expect us to keep doing this over and over and over, one more time, forgive and forget,” he continued. “While the people we elect and trust in office in this country go to great lengths not to protect us, to not consider us equals.”

Whitfield’s mother was killed after visiting her husband daily in a nursing home.

How do we tell him that he’s gone? And much less that he has gone into the hands of a white supremacist? From a terrorist? An evil person who is allowed to live among us? Whitfield said.

The victims also included a man buying a cake for his grandson; a church deacon who helps people get home with his purchases; and a supermarket security guard.

Messages were left with Gendron’s attorneys on Monday. No one answered the door of his family’s house in the morning and relatives did not respond to messages.

Law enforcement officials said Sunday that New York State Police officers had been called to Gendron’s high school last June over a report that the then-17-year-old had made threatening statements. The threat was “general” in nature and not related to race, Gramaglia said.

He said Gendron had no further contact with police after a mental health evaluation that landed him in a hospital for a day and a half.

It was unclear whether officials could have invoked New York’s “red flag” regulation, which allows law enforcement, school officials and families to petition a court to order the seizure of weapons from people deemed dangerous. Authorities did not say when Gendron acquired the weapons he had during the deadly attack.

Federal law prohibits people from owning guns if a judge has determined they have a “mental defect” or have been forced into a mental institution. An assessment alone would not trigger a ban.

The long list of mass shootings in the US that involved missed opportunities to intervene includes the 2018 massacre of 17 students at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where law enforcement officers received numerous complaints about the gunman’s threatening statements and the murder of more than two dozen people at a Texas church in 2017 by a former Air Force member who was able to buy a gun despite a history of violence.

At the White House, President Joe Biden, who planned a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, paid tribute to one of the victims, retired police officer and security guard Aaron Salter. Salter repeatedly fired at the attacker, hitting his body armor at least once before he was shot dead. Biden said Salter “gave his life trying to save others.”

Authorities said that in addition to the 10 blacks killed, three people were injured: one black, two whites.

Gendron researched the demographics of the neighborhood and conducted reconnaissance before the attack, investigators said. Mayor Byron Brown said the gunman “came here for the express purpose of taking as many black lives as he could.”

Zeneta Everhart said her son, supermarket clerk Zaire Goodman, was helping a shopper outside when he saw a man get out of a car in military gear and point a gun at him. A bullet then struck Goodman in the neck.

“Mom! Mom, come here now, come here now! I got shot!” she told her mother on the phone. Goodman, 20, left the hospital and was doing well Monday, his mother said.

In a live-streamed video of the attack circulating online, Gendron pointed his gun at a white person hiding behind a checkout counter, but said, “Sorry!” and he didn’t shoot. Screenshots purporting to be from the broadcast appear to show an anti-Black racial slur scrawled on his rifle.

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