Buffalo Tops shooting suspect pleads guilty under New York’s Domestic Terrorism Law
Payton Gendron has pleaded guilty to state charges stemming from the May shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo.
Gendron pleaded guilty to 15 charges in all, including domestic terrorism motivated by hate, murder and attempted murder. He still faces more than two dozen federal charges, some of which carry the possibility of the death penalty. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 15, 2023. Domestic terrorism motivated by hate carries a mandatory life sentence.
His parents, Paul and Pamela Gendron, released a statement following the hearing: “We remain shocked and shattered to learn that our son was responsible for the hideous attack at the Tops Grocery Store on May 14, 2022. With today’s plea of guilty, he will be held accountable for his actions. Our hearts are broken over the devastation he caused to the innocent victims he killed and wounded, their families, and the African-American community in Buffalo and beyond.”
Gendron fatally shot 10 Black people “because of the perceived race and/or color” of the victims, according to the indictment by the Erie County district attorney.
“Thank God the families and the victims who survived this and this community don’t have to endure a long, protracted trial,” Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said following the hearing. “Nothing will ever bring back the 10 beautiful people who lost their lives on that day. This past Thursday on Thanksgiving, there were 10 empty chairs at the Thanksgiving dinner … I can never provide full closure. There’s never going to be full closure for the families.”
He was charged with carrying out a “domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate” along with 10 counts of murder in the first degree, 10 counts of murder in the second degree as a hate crime, three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime and one count of criminal possession of a weapon.
Flynn said Gendron illegally modified his gun, practiced shooting at state parks in Broome County and wrote 180 pages of racist screed that also contained the names of past mass shooters he admired.
White supremacist rhetoric online, including the promotion of racist conspiracy theories, has been linked to Gendron and his motive behind the Buffalo attack, ABC News has previously reported. Gendron traveled from his home near Binghamton, New York, to carry out the shooting, according to officials.
A document of Gendron’s uncovered by investigators outlined “the goals behind the attack which were to kill as many African Americans as possible, avoid dying and spread ideals,” Flynn said. “The document also detailed the defendant’s hateful beliefs, specifically his hatred for African Americans, Jewish people, immigrants, and other minorities.”
Gendron is the first to be charged with domestic terrorism motivated by hate in New York under a 2020 statute, which was implemented following an El Paso, Texas, shooting targeting Latinos in 2019.
He has been charged by federal prosecutors with a total of 26 counts of committing a hate crime resulting in death and a hate crime involving bodily injury. He’s also charged with using a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence. In July, Gendron’s public defender entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
“His decision to plead guilty will deliver the families some justice, but it will not end the racism that drove him to kill in the first place,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of civil rights group National Action Network. “That horrific day was the byproduct of a white supremacy so blatant that its followers don’t hide under a hood — they livestream their hate for everyone to see,” referring to the livestream of the shooting captured by a camera on Gendron’s helmet during the attack.
The families of Buffalo victims are expected to speak following the hearing.