Ten people were killed and three more were injured when a man opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, authorities said Saturday. Police said the shooter, who is now in custody, will be charged with murder in what authorities are calling a hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism case.
“This was pure evil,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia. “This was a direct racially motivated hate crime from someone outside of our community.”
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a news conference that at approximately 2:30 p.m., an 18-year-old white man who is not from the area got out of his vehicle at a Tops Friendly Market. The man, who has not been publicly identified by authorities, was “very heavily armed” and had a helmet and tactical gear, Gramaglia said. Police said he, too, had a camera and was livestreaming the shooting.
The suspect shot four people in the parking lot, killing three, before entering the store, he said. Once he entered, he met a “beloved” retired Buffalo police officer who worked at the store as a security guard. The guard fired multiple shots that struck the suspect but did not hit him because of his tactical gear, Gramaglia said. The suspect then killed the guard, who has not been identified.
The suspect eventually returned to the front of the store and was met by police, Gramaglia said. He put a gun to his neck when he saw police, but the officers convinced him to put it down and turn himself in, Gramaglia said. He was later taken into custody.
Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office, said the case is considered a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism. Officials did not elaborate on why they made that determination, but said the evidence indicates some “racial animosity.”
“We will not stop until every lead is investigated, until every piece of evidence is analyzed and until we understand how and why this horrific tragedy and crime occurred,” Belongia said.
A law enforcement source told CBS News that the suspect allegedly yelled racial slurs during the shooting. A source also said the gunman had a racial slur written on his gun.
Authorities said at the news conference that 11 of the 13 victims were African American. Four, including one of the dead, were store clerks.
Authorities did not provide much information about the suspect. Although he lived “hours away” from the scene of the shooting, he was a New York resident, police said.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he has called a judge and will indict the suspect within an hour on a first-degree murder charge, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole. Flynn said the charges could include the deaths of multiple people and could also include the allegation of a racial motive.
“I want to make sure I have the best charge right now to keep him in custody and move this matter forward before I add any other charges,” Flynn said. “But I can, and if those charges are applicable, which I think they may be, they will be added.”
Flynn said police did not know the suspect, who allegedly used an assault weapon in the shooting.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is from Buffalo, said the state has offered assistance to local officials and asked people to stay away from the area.
Tops Friendly Markets said in a statement that it is “shocked and deeply saddened” by the shooting.
“Our top priority remains the health and well-being of our associates and customers,” the supermarket said. “We appreciate the quick response from local law enforcement and are providing all available resources to assist authorities in the ongoing investigation.”
The Buffalo incident is the latest high-profile mass shooting motivated by what authorities call racial hatred. In 2020, the FBI raised its assessment of the threat posed byin the United States to along with the level of threat posed to the country by foreign terrorist organizations. FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress in November 2019 that most such attacks are “fueled by some form of white supremacy.”
Pat Milton contributed reporting.