BUFFALO — A white teenager who fatally shot 10 people in a racist attack at a New York grocery store in a black neighborhood had been detained and given a mental health evaluation a year ago but was released after about a day. , authorities said on Sunday.
The suspect, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, turned himself in to police Saturday at the grocery store in Buffalo, New York, after what authorities called an act of “racially motivated violent extremism.” Apparently he posted a racist manifesto on the internet.
“The evidence we have uncovered so far does not make it clear that this is an outright racist hate crime that will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters on Sunday.
Eleven people shot were black and two were white, authorities said. The racial breakdown of the dead was not made clear.
Gramaglia told reporters that Gendron had been detained and given a mental evaluation for a day and a half last June, but was released.
While not providing additional details, New York State Police said in a statement Sunday that they had been called to a high school in Gendron’s hometown of Conklin, New York, near the Pennsylvania border, on March 8. June 2021, in response to a 17-year-old student making a threatening statement.
Without identifying Gendron, police said the student was taken into custody and underwent a mental health evaluation at a hospital. He was not criminally charged.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul told ABC News on Sunday that an investigation would focus on what could have been done to stop Gendron, as he had posted his views online and been on authorities’ radar.
“I want to know what people knew and when they knew it,” he said.
The Buffalo shooting follows other racially motivated mass murders in recent years, including a Pittsburgh synagogue attack that left 11 dead in October 2018, and the March 2021 Atlanta spa shootings in which a white man killed eight people, targeting Asians.
Authorities said Gendron drove to Buffalo from his home several hours away to launch the attack, which he streamed in real time on the social media platform Twitch, a live video service owned by Amazon.com.
He then opened fire at the Tops grocery store with a gun he legally purchased but had illegally modified a high-capacity magazine, Hochul said.
On Sunday, several dozen community members held an emotional vigil for the victims outside the store, where Sharon Doyle, a 55-year-old security guard at the Erie County Public Library, led a chant of “Black Lives Matter.” , my life matters”.
“We all go in this Tops. I was scared to even go to Walmart last night,” Doyle said. “I have to go to work tomorrow and I’m terrified.”
Nearby, at True Bethel Baptist Church, a reverend led a funeral for a large crowd of worshipers, including some relatives of the victims and some who were in the store at the time of the shooting.
One was Charles Everhart Sr., 65, whose grandson, Zaire Goodman, 20, worked at the store. Goodman was shot in the neck but survived.
“He was pushing carts back into the store and was one of the first to get hit,” Everhart said.
A 180-page manifesto circulated online Saturday, believed to have been authored by Gendron, outlined “The Great Replacement Theory,” a racist conspiracy theory that whites are being replaced by minorities in the United States and other countries.
Another document circulating online that appeared to have been written by Gendron outlined a to-do list for the attack, including cleaning the weapon and testing the live stream.
A spokesman for the Erie County district attorney’s office declined to comment on the documents.
Hochul told reporters she was appalled the suspect managed to livestream his attack on social media, which she blamed for harboring a “feeding frenzy” of violent extremist ideology.
“These outlets need to be more vigilant in monitoring social media content,” he said.
Social media and streaming platforms like Twitch, which said it took down the stream after less than two minutes, have battled the control of violent and extremist content for years.
“The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring any account re-streaming this content,” a Twitch spokesperson said.
Gendron was arraigned hours after the shooting in state court on first-degree murder charges, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.
Gendron has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to return to court on May 19. He was on suicide watch and isolated from other incarcerated people Sunday, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said.
Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the Buffalo field office, said the attack would be investigated as a hate crime and an act of “racially motivated violent extremism” under federal law.
US President Joe Biden denounced the shooting as “abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation” in a statement on Saturday.