The man accused of opening fire on shoppers inside a Buffalo supermarket and killing 10 people was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday – a day ahead of the store’s long-awaited reopening.
Exactly two months after the shooting, Payton Gendron, 19, has been indicted on 27 counts, including 14 hate crimes charges and 13 firearms charges, the Justice Department said in a news release.
Gendron is accused of shooting people inside and around Tops Friendly Market in New York on May 14, killing 10 Black people and injuring three others, with prosecutors alleging he targeted victims because of their race.
CNN has reached out to an attorney for Gendron for comment.
“The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.”
Garland will decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later time, the release said.
The supermarket has undergone a complete renovation and will reopen to the public on Friday with additional safety and security measures in place, as well as the creation of a memorial for the shooting victims inside the store, Tops Friendly Markets said in a news release.
Among the federal charges Gendron was indicted on are 10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill three injured people and one hate crime count alleging Gendron attempted to kill additional Black people in and around the supermarket.
Gendron was also indicted on 13 counts of using, carrying or discharging a firearm in relation to the hate crimes.
The indictment alleges Gendron committed the crimes “after substantial planning and premeditation to commit an act of terrorism,” the release said.
He is currently in state custody where he is facing pending criminal charges. A New York grand jury returned a 25-count indictment against Gendron last month, including murder and hate crime charges, according to court documents. He has pleaded not guilty to the indictment.
The tragedy began when a typical Saturday of grocery shopping turned into a violent nightmare as Gendron, who described himself as a White supremacist in a hateful rant online, arrived at Tops and gunned down people inside and outside of the store, police say.
Among the victims, who range in age from 20 to 86, were people grocery shopping, a heroic former police officer who tried to stop the gunman, a long-term substitute teacher and a taxi driver who “took pride in helping people.”
Following the shootings, Buffalo residents feared the closing of Tops would severely impact their community – especially those who did not have transportation to travel to the next closest supermarket.
Now two months and a full renovation later, the supermarket is ready to open its doors once again.
A dedication ceremony for the store’s reopening was held Thursday afternoon and included a community prayer and a moment of silence for the shooting victims.
“This is the day where we declare that hate did not win, that hate was defeated, that hate has no place in East Buffalo or Buffalo or in the great state of New York, and that this community…drove out the darkness,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said. “It is a bright day in Buffalo and I want the residents to know that everything is going to be all right.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the outpouring of support for the store’s reopening is “proof positive that love beats hate.”
“We will take this place of tragedy and in the days, the weeks, the months, the years to come, it will be a national and worldwide example of a place of triumph,” Brown added.
Over 75% of the store associates at the Buffalo store have returned to work, Tops Friendly Markets President John Persons said, calling it a testament “to their resiliency.”
New security measures include enhanced video monitoring systems, an emergency evacuation audio/visual alarm system, the installation of additional emergency exits, increased professional security both in and outside of the store and more LED lighting installed throughout the parking lot and around the building, according to the release from Tops.
The names of the shooting victims are not included in the memorial inside the store at the request of some of the victims’ loved ones, and a permanent outdoor public memorial is also being planned by New York state and City of Buffalo officials, the supermarket said.
The supermarket also said in its news release that it has enhanced its prepared food and produce offerings.
“Service to the community remains our focus, with a determination to constantly strengthen the relationships we have with the people we serve,” Persons said. “We want to say to our community – we are here for you, today, and for years and years to come.”
July 15, 2022 at 02:49AM