A white supremacist targeted a Black neighborhood, killing 10 people in Buffalo’s worst mass shooting. On Saturday, an 18-year-old gunman from Conklin, New York, drove 200 miles, put on tactical body armor, and walked into a Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Buffalo, New York. He shot and killed 10 people, injuring three others. Eleven of the victims were Black and two were white, police said. The perpetrator, who live-streamed the attack, said his actions — down to his targeting Buffalo’s majority-Black East Side — were motivated by his hatred of Black people. The FBI is investigating it as a racially motivated hate crime. The gunman had painted a racial slur on his gun along with the number 14, a popular white supremacy reference. In a statement, President Joe Biden denounced the shooting and said that “a racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation.”
The suspect was charged with first-degree murder at a Saturday evening arraignment, to which the man pleaded not guilty. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said his office is conducting an investigation: “We are now investigating terrorism charges, other murder charges, along with working with our partners in the federal government so that they can perhaps file charges as well.”
The racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory is connected to other hate-fueled gun violence. Along with anti-Black hatred and anti-Semitism, a racist manifesto attributed to the shooter endorsed the “great replacement” ideology that baselessly says there’s an intentional movement to replace white people in societies across the world. The suspect said he was most influenced by the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand in 2019, in which two consecutive shootings killed 51 Muslim worshipers at mosques. Its perpetrator also espoused “great replacement” ideas. Attackers in several cases, including the El Paso Walmart attack in 2019 that targeted people of Mexican descent, and the anti-Semitic rampages at synagogues in Pittsburgh in 2018 and Poway, California, in 2019, offered similar motivations. Versions of the ideology, which originated among the white supremacist far-right, have become more mainstream in recent years. A recent Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that one in three Americans believe there is a politically motivated effort to replace U.S.-born Americans with immigrants.
A community mourns. Crowds gathered for a vigil on Sunday outside the supermarket while others assembled at churches to mourn and commemorate the victims of the attack and call for justice. “We have to take white supremacy real seriously and be able to challenge it and speak out against it. Also, challenge its many manifestations in terms of unequal economic policies which reflect our communities,” said the Reverend Peter Cook, following an interfaith service at the Macedonia Baptist Church. The Buffalo neighborhood where the shooting took place had been shaped by decades of segregation. Local news outlets reported that the community had fought hard for the opening of the Tops supermarket in 2003 because the area had long had few options for fresh food. “We don’t want to be protected after the fact,” said resident Marlene Brown, 58, who lives just blocks away from the site of the attack. “We want to be protected and treated like we matter, without it taking a white supremacist shooting up our community.”
The shooter reportedly used a semiautomatic weapon that he obtained legally in New York — but said he illegally modified it. The gunman purchased a Bushmaster XM-15 in Endicott, New York, which matched the authorities’ description of the weapon he used. In online posts, however, he also said he illegally modified the gun in order for it to use a high-capacity magazine. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the high-capacity magazine the shooter allegedly used in the attack was not legally obtained in New York. Police said they recovered two other long guns from the perpetrator’s car. While New York law prohibits people under 21 from obtaining a permit for handguns, long guns (rifles and shotguns) can be possessed by people starting at age 16 and purchased starting at 18. Both Hochul and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown called for stricter gun laws after the shooting.
Law enforcement officers say the shooter had been investigated before. The Buffalo Police commissioner said the State Police spoke to the suspect last June for allegedly making general threats about classmates, adding that the police referred him to a hospital for a mental health assessment; he was released just over a day later. “A school official reported that this very troubled young man had made statements indicating that he wanted to do a shooting, either at a graduation ceremony, or sometime after,” a government official familiar with the case said.
A California church attack was one of several other mass shootings this weekend. On Sunday afternoon, a gunman killed one person and wounded five at a Tawainese congregation in Laguna Woods, California, a small city in Orange County. All five victims were adults of Asian descent and the attacker is an Asian man in his 60s who did not live in the area, police said. Authorities said churchgoers tackled the shooter, tied him up with an extension cord, and took his handguns before police arrived. “That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery,” said Undersheriff Jeff Hallock. In Milwaukee, three shootings on Friday night in the city’s downtown entertainment district left 21 people injured, including 17 people in one incident.
A Dallas shooting is now being investigated as anti-Asian hate crime. On Wednesday, someone shot and injured three women of Korean descent at a hair salon. After first ruling out hate as a possible motive, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said on Friday that the city was now investigating it as such after receiving new information. He said police believe the incident may be connected to two recent Dallas shootings that also occurred at Asian-American businesses. There were no injuries in those incidents.
12th — where the Buffalo shooting ranks among deadliest U.S. mass shootings since Gun Violence Archive started tracking them in 2013. The incident was one of at least 198 mass shootings — defined as incidents in which four or more were injured — in the U.S. this year, leaving 210 people dead. [Gun Violence Archive]