The white man accused of killing 10 Black people in a racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket appeared briefly in court Thursday and returned to jail after he was indicted by a grand jury.
As authorities, including the FBI, investigate the possibility of hate crime and terrorism charges, Payton Gendron, 18, faces a first-degree murder charge in the Saturday attack that authorities say targeted a predominantly Black community. Of the 10 people killed and three injured in the shooting, 11 were Black, police said.
Gendron has been accused of being inspired by a racist theory that fueled the carnage after he posted hundreds of pages of documents detailing his motivations and plans to online discussion platforms.
Prosecutors said the suspect has been indicted, but the hearing before Buffalo City Court Judge Craig D. Hannah was adjourned until June 9. In a brief statement, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said Gendron remains held without bail.
The court appearance was the suspect’s second since he was arrested Saturday. At an initial court appearance, a court-appointed lawyer representing Gendron pleaded “not guilty” on his behalf.
911 dispatcher put on leave after being accused of hanging up on call
Meanwhile, a 911 dispatcher has been placed on leave after being accused of hanging up on a supermarket employee who called to report the rampage.
“Termination will be sought” for the dispatcher at a disciplinary hearing this month, a spokesperson for the Erie County executive told the Associated Press.
The grocery store employee was hiding on the floor behind the customer service counter as a gunman opened fire at Tops Friendly Markets on the city’s Near East Side. She told the Buffalo News that she whispered while calling 911, fearing the shooter would hear her.
She told the newspaper that the dispatcher responded by shouting at her, asking why she was whispering, and then hanging up. She said she had to call her boyfriend to tell him to call 911 to report the shooting.
New York governor pushes for crackdown on terrorism threats
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul introduced an array of executive orders and new legislation Wednesday, vowing to combat the factors that appeared to lead to the radicalization of the shooter.
Among these moves was signing an executive order to establish a unit within the state’s Office of Counterterrorism that would focus exclusively on the rise of domestic terrorism and extremism.
New York counties would also be required to perform reviews of their systems meant to identify terrorism threats and submit plans to confront racially-motivated threats to the state by the end of the year, Hochul said. The state will also create a dedicated state police unit within the state intelligence center to monitor social media for these threats, she said.
Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday announced an investigation into social media companies the defendant is accused of using to discuss his plans for the massacre.
A new executive order will also require state police to file a “red flag” law request when they believe an individual is a threat to themselves or others, Hochul said, adding that the state would provide criteria for law enforcement to follow.
Buffalo shooter showed plans to some people just before attack
For months, authorities say, the gunman plotted his brutal, racist attack, chronicling his plans in a private, online diary. Shortly before he put his plans to action, he allowed a small group of people on the chat platform Discord to see his private writings, which authorities say included racist rants, hand-drawn maps of the supermarket, details of a reconnaissance trip to the store in March, and step-by-step attack plans.
Discord confirmed Wednesday that an invitation to access the private diary was sent out to a group of people about a half hour before the attack. While some accepted the invitation, it’s unclear whether any alerted authorities.
“What we know at this time is that a private, invite-only server was created by the suspect to serve as a personal diary chat log,” a Discord spokesperson told the Associated Press in a statement. “Approximately 30 minutes prior to the attack, however, a small group of people were invited to and joined the server. Before that, our records indicate no other people saw the diary chat log in this private server.”
Discord said it removed the suspect’s diary as soon as the platform became aware of it.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia has said investigators are working to verify and review the online postings.
Bills, NFL foundations donating $400,000 to relief efforts in Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills Foundation and the NFL Foundation are teaming up to support the Buffalo community in wake of the mass shooting.
The foundations are donating $400,000. Buffalo Together Community Response Fund will be receiving $200,000 to address “immediate and long-term needs” in the community, “including systemic issues that have marginalized communities of color.”
The other $200,000 will be donated directly to the Buffalo Bills Foundation to help multiple nonprofits working on emergency response efforts to meet the current needs of Buffalo East Side residents.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Bills players and coaches visited Tops Friendly Markets on Wednesday to distribute food to a community left shattered from loss and reeling from the closing of the only supermarket in the area. Outside a public library, they passed out tomato plants, fresh fruits, and hot plates of pasta and chicken.
“It’s the least we can do,” tight end Dawson Knox said. “This community has our backs year-round. If we can just bring a few moments of happiness to people’s lives, it’s worth it.”