A grand jury in the United States has charged the 18-year-old man accused of killing 10 Black people in Buffalo, New York, last month with committing a “domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate”, the Associated Press and local media have reported.
The grand jury on Wednesday also charged the suspect, Payton Gendron, with 10 counts of first-degree murder in relation to the May 14 shooting.
Gendron, who also faces charges of weapons possession and attempted murder as a hate crime, has been in custody since the attack and is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday in Erie County Court in New York.
The deadly shooting fuelled public anger and calls to tackle white supremacist violence, as the suspect reportedly espoused racist, anti-Black views in a manifesto before targeting a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo.
US investigators have said Gendron drove about three hours from his home in Conklin, New York, intending to kill as many Black people as possible.
The US Department of Justice also said last month that it is investigating the rampage “as a hate crime, racially motivated act of white supremacy and violent extremism”.
Those calls have grown louder since, within two weeks of the Buffalo attack, a gunman in Texas opened fire on a fourth-grade classroom in the small town of Uvalde, killing 19 children and two teachers in the deadliest school shooting in the country in a decade.
As of Wednesday, the US has reported 231 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the attacker.
Yet despite these acts of violence, gun control measures remain difficult to enact in a country where gun lobby groups hold tremendous political influence and where right-wing politicians are largely opposed to such curbs.
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden – who visited Uvalde over the weekend – vowed to “continue to push” for reform, saying: “I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it.”
Some key federal lawmakers have also voiced cautious optimism and a bipartisan group of senators worked through the weekend to pursue possible areas of compromise.
They reportedly were focusing on laws to raise the age for gun purchases or to allow police to remove guns from people considered a threat to themselves or others, but not on an outright ban on high-powered rifles like the weapons used in both Uvalde and Buffalo.
Gendron had previously been charged with first-degree murder in the Buffalo shooting, which also injured three people. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors told a judge on May 20 that the grand jury had voted to indict Gendron but was continuing its investigation.
His lawyer, Brian Parker, said he had not seen Wednesday’s indictment and could not comment, the Associated Press news agency reported, adding that prosecution and defence lawyers have been barred by a judge from discussing the case publicly.