Justice Dept files hate crimes charges against alleged Buffalo mass shooter Payton Gendron

Washington – The Justice Department has filed multiple federal hate crimes charges against alleged Buffalo mass shooter Payton Gendron. 

Prosecutors in the Western District of New York charged the 18-year-old White man with 26 counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses, some of which carry the possibility of the death penalty.

According to the criminal complaint, “Gendron’s motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks.”

He’s being charged with 10 counts of hate crime resulting in death, three counts involving bodily injury and attempt to kill, 10 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder and in retaliation to a crime of violence and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in retaliation to a crime of violence.

Just over a month after 18-year-old Gendron opened fire inside a Buffalo Tops supermarket, killing 10 and wounding three others, Attorney General Merrick Garland is traveling to the site of the massacre Wednesday to pay his respects to the victims’ families. 

In the wake of the massacre, Garland announced the Justice Department would investigate the matter as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism. Investigators allege the suspect detailed his plans and his racist motivation for the violence in hundreds of pages of writings he posted online shortly before the shooting. According to authorities, 11 of the 13 individuals who were shot were Black. 

A state grand jury earlier this month indicted the alleged shooter with charges of domestic terrorism motivated by hate and 10 counts of first-degree murder. The accused shooter, Payton Gendron, has been in custody since the May 14 shooting and has pleaded not guilty. 

Garland is traveling with Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, whose division is a part of the federal hate crime investigation. The group will stop at the Tops market before meeting privately with victims’ families and survivors of the mass shooting. 

The attorney general is scheduled to hold a press conference with U.S. Attorney Trini Ross for the Western District of New York, whose office has federal jurisdiction over the Buffalo area and filed the charges on Wednesday. 

In recent weeks, the Justice Department has announced new initiatives aimed at  combating hate crimes, using grants to create state-run hate crime reporting hotlines and to support community-based approaches to reducing their frequency. The department has also established the first anti-hate crimes resources coordinator over the last year, who has been tasked in part with facilitating community awareness of hate crimes.

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