Payton Gendron, the white man charged with murdering 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York has appeared briefly in court after a grand jury indicted him on a first-degree murder charge.
Gendron, 18, wore an orange jail uniform and a mask, and was silent throughout the one-minute proceeding on Thursday, attended by some relatives of the victims.
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Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush said the indictment of Payton Gendron was handed down on Wednesday.
Someone shouted “Payton, you’re a coward!” as he was led out. He is being held in jail without bail.
Thirteen people in all were shot at the Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo. Authorities are continuing to investigate the possibility of hate crime and terrorism charges.
Gendron, livestreamed the attack from a helmet camera before surrendering to police outside the store. Shortly before the attack, he posted hundreds of pages of writings to online discussion groups where he detailed his plans for the assault and his racist motivation.
Investigators have been examining those documents, which included a private diary he kept on the chat platform Discord.
In New York, prosecutors can charge a defendant with first-degree murder only under special circumstances, including when multiple people are killed in a single incident, like in the Buffalo shooting. The single count against Gendron covered all 10 deaths at the supermarket.
At his initial court appearance last week, Gendron’s court-appointed lawyer entered a plea of “not guilty” on his behalf. Gendron is due back in court on June 9.
The massacre at the Tops supermarket was unsettling even in a nation that has become almost numb to mass shootings. All but two of the 13 people shot during the attack were Black. Gendron’s online writings said he planned the assault after becoming infatuated with white supremacist ideology that he encountered online.
The diary said Gendron planned his attack in secret, with no outside help, but Discord confirmed Wednesday that an invitation to access his private writings was sent to a small group of people about 30 minutes before the assault began.
Some of them accepted the invitation. It was unclear how many read what he had written or logged on to view the assault live. It also was not clear whether anyone tried to alert law enforcement.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia has said investigators were working to obtain, verify and review Gendron’s online postings.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday authorised the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, to investigate social media platforms used by Gendron to determine if they were liable for “providing a platform to plan and promote violence”.
President Joe Biden, in a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, condemned white nationalists, as well as online platforms, media outlets and political rhetoric he criticised for spreading racist conspiracy theories.
“What happened here is simple and straightforward: terrorism, terrorism, domestic terrorism,” Biden said.