Updated Nov 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Buffalo shooter pleads guilty to domestic terrorism motivated by hate, and other charges

Photo of a flower memorial positioned with the Tops sign standing in the background

A makeshift memorial outside of Tops supermarket on May 15, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y., after a gunman opened fire at the store. Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

The white gunman who killed 10 Black people in a racist mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May pleaded guilty to state charges on Monday, including one count of domestic terrorism motivated by hate, according to the Erie County district attorney.

The big picture: Payton Gendron, 19, faces a mandatory life sentence for perpetrating what the FBI has called a case of racially motivated violent extremism.

Context: The 25-count state court indictment included 10 first-degree murder charges and three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime.

  • The domestic terrorism count carries life without parole — no maximum or minimum.
  • Gendron had initially pleaded not guilty, but attorneys for victims' families said earlier this month they had been informed that he planned to change his plea and waive his right to appeal.

Don't forget: Gendron, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, allegedly drove over 200 miles to carry out the attack in the predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of the 13 people he shot were Black.

  • The semiautomatic rifle he used had been inscribed with a racial epithet and the number 14, a white supremacist numeric symbol.
  • He also live-streamed the shooting on Twitch for about two minutes, allowing for screenshots that circulated online in the following days.

State of play: Historically, Black people have been the most targeted group for hate crimes in most cities.

  • Attacks on Black and Asian people drove much of the increase in hate crimes in the 2020 fiscal year, which saw the highest number of reported hate crimes in 20 years, according to the FBI.

What's next: Gendron has a sentencing hearing for the state charges scheduled for Feb. 15, though he still also faces 27 federal charges — 14 hate crimes charges and 13 firearms charges.

  • "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," prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of New York wrote in a June court filing.
  • "He selected the Tops store because it is where a high percentage and high density of Black people can be found,'" U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference in June.

Worth noting: The New York attorney general's office said in an investigative report last month that Gendron "was first indoctrinated and radicalized" through online platforms where he consumed "explicitly racist, bigoted, and violent content."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments. Jacob Knutson contributed reporting.

Go deeper