Buffalo gunman pleads not guilty to domestic terror charge

Jun 2, 2022, 7:21 AM | Updated: 9:48 pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The white gunman who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket pleaded not guilty Thursday to hate-motivated domestic terrorism and other charges. A prosecutor called the evidence against him overwhelming.

A lawyer entered the plea for Payton Gendron, 18, in the first case to make use of New York’s domestic terrorism hate crime law. Gendron didn’t speak during the brief hearing with a heavy security presence.

Witnesses, police and Gendron’s own writings and livestreamed video have incriminated him as the gunman who used an AR-style semi-automatic rifle May 14 to target shoppers and employees of a Tops Friendly Market, and he surrendered at the crime scene after putting his rifle to his neck. Authorities said he chose the store because of its location in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

“There is overwhelming proof of the defendant’s guilt,” Assistant District Attorney John Fereleto said. “The defendant was caught at the scene of the crime with the weapon in his hands.”

Gendron has been held without bail since the shooting and is due back in court July 7.

He was charged with murder shortly after the attack. On Wednesday, a new indictment expanded the case to include the domestic terrorism charge, along with 10 counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime, criminal possession of a weapon and three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime.

“When you hear the phase ‘throw the book at’ someone, well, in this case right here, the defendant just got ‘War and Peace,'” District Attorney John Flynn said at a news conference after the arraignment.

The domestic terrorism hate crime charge — officially, domestic acts of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree — was added to state law just two years ago, after a mass shooting targeting Mexicans at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. The offense carries an automatic life sentence upon conviction.

Until now, no arrests or arraignments or arraignments under the law have been reported to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, spokesperson Janine Kava said.

In Gendron’s case, the charge accuses him of killing at least five people “because of the perceived race and/or color” of his victims.

Outside court, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown called Gendron “a racist, hate-filled outsider who came to our community with the stated intent to kill as many Black people as possible.”

Prosecutors said Gendron drove about three hours to Buffalo from his home in Conklin, New York, to target African Americans. Shortly before opening fire, he posted documents that outlined his white supremacist views and revealed he had been planning the attack for months.

Federal authorities also are investigating the possibility of hate crime charges against Gendron.

The slain victims ranged in age from 32 to 86. Three other people were wounded.

The bloodshed, followed 10 days later by a mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has renewed a national debate about gun control.

Meanwhile, a 911 dispatcher was fired Thursday after being accused by a Tops employee of hanging up on her during the rampage. The dispatcher, who was put on administrative leave two days after the shooting, was terminated after a disciplinary hearing Thursday, Erie County spokesperson Daniel Meyer said.

County Executive Marc Poloncarz last month called the handling of the 911 call “completely unacceptable” and said the county would seek to fire the employee.

The dispatcher’s union, the Civil Service Employees Association, said Thursday it had ensured that disciplinary due process provisions were “followed fairly and appropriately here.”

The dispatcher told The Buffalo News late last month she was sorry about what the caller went through during the shooting, adding that more facts would come out at the hearing. A message was left Thursday at a possible phone number for her.


Peltz reported from New York.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/Superior Court of Arizona in Yavapai County)...
Associated Press

Arizona judge has cases reassigned following DUI arrest

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that all cases currently assigned to a Yavapai County Superior Court judge recently arrested on suspicion of extreme DUI will be reassigned to other judges.
3 days ago
Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
6 days ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
6 days ago
(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
12 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
20 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
20 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Buffalo gunman pleads not guilty to domestic terror charge