By Sydney Umstead, News Reporter
In May, the people of Buffalo faced a racially charged mass shooting at a local Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue. The assailant, Peyton Gendron, took the lives of ten people and wounded three. On Nov. 28, he pled guilty to charges of first-degree murder, murder as a hate crime and domestic terrorism.
The sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 15, and the BBC reports that families of the victims, as well as those who were wounded, will be able to address the gunman in court. Gendron is also currently facing federal charges with a potential for the death sentence and will receive a sentence of life in prison, without parole, following the guilty plea.
He pled guilty to all state charges, which include ten counts of first-degree murder, CBS News reports. During court, the judge named each of the victims and asked if he killed them because of race, with Gendron replying yes to each charge. BBC News also states that Gendron displayed “little emotion” during the process.
The age of victims ranged from 32-86, with one victim being 67-year-old Heyward Patterson, a church deacon who drove people to the grocery store and back so they could pick up the items they needed.
This follows the gunman's previous plea of not guilty in June earlier this year. However, the attack had been live streamed, and subsequent investigations uncovered a 180-page document that appears to be written by the attacker in which he describes himself as a white supremacist and fascist.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn noted that the case was the first time someone had been charged under the law implicated in 2020 which addresses domesic terrorism charged by hate, and he later defined the plea as “swift justice.” The weapon used during the Tops shooting contained inscriptions of support towards a far-right conspiracy group who believe in ideas of white nationalist propaganda.
Reporter for the Buffalo News Caitlin Dewey wrote about how some unregulated sites the gunman had frequented are still posting the gunman’s agenda. She reports that for six weeks during May, June and July, the staff at the Buffalo News had watched these sites and saw repeated posts about continuing the violence.
These sites feature many conspiracy theories held by white nationalists and are alleged to contribute to the breeding grounds for similar acts of extreme violence. The BBC reports that the “manifesto” of the attacker is similar to the one of the murderer from the Christ Church shooting in 2019. They write, “All of the recent far-right assailants cite the internet as the starting place for their journeys towards radicalization.” On Oct. 12, a shooting killing two took place in Bratislava, Slovakia, with the murderer saying the Buffalo mass shooter had “inspired” him.
The attack is now considered by many to be the worst shooting in Buffalo history, and it has many calling for gun bans. The BBC News writes that relatives of the victims called for Congress and the FBI to address white supremacy and gun violence. AP News cites Mark Talley, son of victim Geraldine Talley, saying, “What would make me happy is if America acknowledged its history of racism,” after he was asked if he was happy about the assailant going to jail for life.
WGRZ featured an article detailing the lives of the victims killed in the Tops shooting, one being 55-year-old Aaron Salter, who has been noted a hero by Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. Another victim, 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, stopped at the Tops that day to get something to eat after visiting her husband at the nursing home.
One of the injured victims, Zaire Goodman, said of the news, “I’m devastated, I’m angry, and I’m thinking about who won’t welcome home a loved one tonight.”