Grady Lewis said he was outside the grocery store when he heard seven or eight gunshots, and described seeing a white man “fully prepared, ready to go” dressed in tactical gear gunshots at the store entrance, standing in the heart of the store. of the city’s black community.
“He came out, he put the gun to his head, to his chin. Then he dropped it and took off his body armor, then got on his hands and knees and put his hands behind his back,” said Lewis, who described the moments. the suspect has been arrested by the police. “I thought they were going to shoot him, but they didn’t shoot him.”
“I still don’t even believe it happened…that someone would enter a supermarket full of people,” he said. “It was terrible, it was really terrible.”
A woman told WKBW she received a disturbing phone call from her “scared, hysterical” 19-year-old granddaughter who was at the supermarket and heard gunshots. The woman ran to the crime scene and found her granddaughter outside the store.
“I can’t even explain how thankful I am to God that she’s okay because she could have been one of the other people,” she told WKBW.
Two people remain in stable condition in the hospital, an Erie County Medical Center spokesman told CNN on Saturday night, and a third injured person was discharged.
Of the 13 victims, 11 were black and two white, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” said a statement by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. The FBI and ATF are coordinating their investigations with local and state law enforcement agencies, the statement said.
The shooting was a “direct racial hate crime by someone outside of our community,” Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia said Saturday. “This was pure evil.”
How the shooting went
At about 2:30 p.m., the suspect, who comes from the city of Conklin, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Buffalo in western New York, drove to Tops Friendly Markets near Masten, according to authorities. Park and Kingsley, which are predominantly black neighborhoods.
According to a statement by Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn, who was wearing tactical gear and armed with “an assault weapon,” the suspect allegedly shot and killed three people in the parking lot and injured a fourth.
The suspect then entered the store and exchanged gunshots with an armed guard, who was a retired member of the Buffalo Police Department, the statement said.
However, because the suspect was wearing heavy tactical gear, the guards’ bullets had no effect, Gramaglia said on Saturday.
“He was very heavily armed,” the police commissioner said. “He had tactical gear, he had a tactical helmet on, he had a camera to live stream what he was doing.”
Nine people were shot in the store before the suspect was detained by police, with the guard and six others dying of their injuries, according to the prosecutor’s statement.
In a statement to CNN, live streaming service Twitch confirmed that the recordings were being streamed, saying that the user has been “indefinitely suspended from our service and that we are taking all appropriate measures, including monitoring accounts rebroadcasting this content.”
Authorities investigate shooting as hate crimes
After the shooting, investigators obtained “certain pieces of evidence” that “indicate some racial hostility” from the suspect, Flynn said at a news conference on Saturday.
“I’m not going to dwell on exactly what they are, but we now have evidence in custody that shows there is a racial component,” Flynn said.
The manifesto, obtained independently by CNN shortly after the attack and before authorities released the suspect’s name, is said to have been written by a person claiming to be Payton Gendron who confessed to the attack.
The manifesto’s author says he bought ammunition for some time, but only got serious about planning the attack in January. Continuing with his perception of the declining size of the white population and claims of ethnic and cultural replacement of whites, the author describes himself as a fascist, a white supremacist, and an anti-Semite.
Additional charges may be filed in addition to the count of first-degree murder, Flynn said, and the accused faces a maximum of life without parole if convicted.
Nation, community respond to shooting
President Joe Biden condemned the shooting in a statement Saturday night and said he mourned the families of the lost.
“We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting while law enforcement does their job, but we need nothing else to formulate a clear moral truth: A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the fabric of this nation.” he said. “Hate should not have a safe haven.”
“This is the worst nightmare any community can face and we are in pain and we are seething as a community right now,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “The deep pain that families feel and that we all feel right now cannot even be explained.”
Speaking to the suspected motive for the shooting, Darius G. Pridgen — the Buffalo City Council president and the senior pastor of the True Bethel Baptist Church — told CNN’s Pamela Brown that he hopes to understand that race relations in the city are not frayed. and that the shooting was the act of an “evil” person from outside the community.
“In the same way, I don’t want black people to be painted with a broad brush when we have one black (do it wrong), they say, ‘Oh, those black people.’ So at the end of the day, I don’t want to see the same thing happen in our black-and-white relationship community,” Pridgen said.
“This was not a white man from Buffalo. This was a white man who was evil, so I don’t want to see all whites painted and have a tension between black and white because of the person who should serve his time.”
Artemis Moshtaghian, Shimon Prokupecz, Christina Maxouris, Emma Tucker, Sharif Paget, Sabrina Shulman, Jamiel Lynch, Brian Stelter, Phil Gast, Gregory Clary, Samantha Beech and Haley Burton of CNN contributed to this report.