Outrage in US after ‘racist’ mass shooting at New York supermarket

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Vigils and a march protest were held in Buffalo, New York on Sunday after the killing of ten people, mostly Black, by an 18-year-old white gunman US officials have branded as “pure evil”.

Believed to be one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history, and the deadliest mass shooting in the US in 2022, the shooter assaulted people in the grocery store in a “racist” rampage.

Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, told reporters the suspect did “reconnaissance” on the predominantly black area surrounding Tops Friendly Market and drove there from his home town of Conklin, more than 322km away.

Wearing heavy body armour and wielding an AR-15 assault rifle, the shooter killed 10 people and wounded three others – almost all of them black – before threatening to turn the gun on himself. Police said officers talked the gunman down before arresting him.

The suspect, identified as Payton Gendron, was arraigned late Saturday on a single count of first-degree murder and held without bail, the Erie County district attorney’s office said. He pleaded not guilty.

“The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime,” Gramaglia said Sunday, adding Gendron had a rifle and shotgun in his car.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was unequivocal about the shooter’s motivations: “This individual came here with the express purpose of taking as many black lives as he possibly could.”

Gramaglia said the gunman just last year made “generalised threats” at his high school, after which state police referred him to a hospital for a mental health evaluation that lasted approximately one day and a half.

He was then released.

Earlier Sunday residents held a vigil outside the store, as New York Governor Kathy Hochul and state Attorney General Letitia James addressed a church service.

In angry and mournful tones, speakers decried easy access to powerful guns and the latest eruption of racist violence, in what has become tragically routine brutality nationwide.

Hochul, a Buffalo native, described the crime as a “military-style execution” and said racist messaging was “spreading like wildfire”, especially online.

President Joe Biden, speaking in Washington, condemned the racist extremism and “the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America.”

The attack evoked memories of recent US history’s most devastating attacks, including a white man’s 2015 massacre of nine worshippers in a South Carolina black Church, and the 2019 attack by a white man in Texas that claimed 23 lives, most of them Latino.

Attorney General James, who is black, described Saturday’s murderous assault as “domestic terrorism, plain and simple”.

Along with state charges, the rampage is being investigated as a federal hate crime “perpetrated by a racially motivated violent extremist,” Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office, told reporters.

Media reports linked the shooter to a 180-page manifesto that described a white supremacist ideology and laid out a plan to target a mainly black neighbourhood.

A spokesperson for Twitch told AFP the shooter used the platform to broadcast the attack live, and that the streaming service had removed the video “less than two minutes after the violence started.”

Along with mentioning the South Carolina church shooting, the gunman reportedly said he had been “inspired” by the shooter who killed 51 people in a New Zealand mosque in March 2019.

The semi-automatic weapon he used had a racial epithet written on its barrel, according to local daily The Buffalo News, citing a local official.

In a video call to True Bethel Baptist Church, New York Senator Chuck Schumer called racism “the poison of America” and urged fellow lawmakers to “finally ban the weapons of war from our streets”.

But facing a powerful pro-gun lobby, past congressional efforts at tightening the nation’s gun laws have generally fallen short – even after horrific shootings. (Source: CNA)

 

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