BUFFALO (AP) — The white man accused of killing 10 black people at a Buffalo supermarket appeared in court Thursday, remaining silent during brief proceedings attended by relatives of the victims after a large jury indicted him.
Payton Gendron, 18, wore an orange prison uniform, mask and handcuffs. As we were dragging him out, someone shouted “Payton, you are a coward!” from the courtroom gallery. He is being held in jail without bail.
Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush said the first-degree murder indictment, which covers all 10 deaths, was released Wednesday.
A total of 13 people were gunned down Saturday at Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo. Authorities continue to investigate possible hate crime and terrorism charges.
District Attorney John Flynn said his office would not comment on the case while the grand jury investigation continues.
Gendron’s attorneys also declined to comment, according to defense attorney Daniel DuBois.
Relatives of several victims met privately with the Reverend Al Sharpton before joining him at a press conference outside Buffalo’s Antioch Baptist Church. Sharpton said his civil rights group, the National Action Network, would cover funeral costs for those killed in the attack.
“These heinous crimes must be stopped,” said Sharpton. “We must hold accountable all those who have aided and abetted hatred in this country.”
Sharpton said the shooter’s innocent victims “were guilty of being black.”
Gendron, 18, livestreamed the attack from a helmet camera before turning himself in to police outside the grocery store. Shortly before the attack, he posted hundreds of pages of writings to online discussion groups where he detailed his plans for the attack and his racist motivation.
Investigators reviewed those documents, which included a diary he kept on the Discord chat platform.
In his first court appearance last week, Gendron’s court-appointed attorney pleaded “not guilty” in his name. He is due back in court on June 9.
Five days after the shooting, officials announced on Thursday that evidence collection at the supermarket was complete. Tops Market chairman John Persons pledged to open the store as soon as possible, but said he could not give a timetable.
The Tops supermarket massacre was unsettling even in a country that has become almost immune to mass shootings. Of the 13 people shot in the attack, all but two were black. Gendron’s online writings indicate that he planned the assault after becoming infatuated with the white supremacist ideology he encountered online.
Stephen Belongia, the FBI’s senior agent in Buffalo, said agents were still working to piece together Gendron’s motivations and how he came to his extremist views.
“An important part of these kinds of incidents is to tell the full story that may not be heard in a courtroom at a later date – to understand, as far as possible, what the reasons for this shooter, how he became radicalized, what he read, where he read it, who inspired him”, Belongia said during a press briefing.
The newspaper says Gendron planned his attack in secret, without outside help, but Discord confirmed on 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’s unclear how many read what he wrote or tuned in to see the attack live. It was also unclear whether anyone had attempted to alert law enforcement.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday authorized State Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the social media platforms used by Gendron to determine if they were responsible for “provide a platform to plan and promote violence.”
In Buffalo on Thursday, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said social media users can also play a role by speaking up when they see people posting violent or threatening content.
“You have to get these people out” he said during a briefing. “Expose those who hold these kinds of extreme views and let us root them out.”