The white gunman accused of committing ahe made threatening comments that brought police to his high school last spring, but he was never charged with any crime and had no further contact with law enforcement after his release from the hospital, authorities said.
The revelation raised questions about whether his run-in with police and the mental health system was another missed opportunity to put a potential mass shooter under closer scrutiny by law enforcement, get him help, or make sure he didn’t have access to drugs. deadly firearms.
Authorities said Sunday they were investigating the attack on predominantly black shoppers and workers at the Tops Friendly Market as a possible federal hate crime or an act of domestic terrorism.
Payton Gendron, 18, traveled about 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York, to Buffalo to carry out the attack, police said.
Federal authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page racist document, allegedly written by Gendron, that said the assault was intended to terrorize all non-white and non-Christian people into leaving the country.
Authorities said at a news conference Sunday that, at the suggestion of state police, Gendron was sent to a local hospital for a mental health checkup in June 2021 after making a blanket threat.
Law enforcement officials revealed to The Associated Press that New York State Police had been called to Gendron’s high school last June over a report that Gendron, then 17, had made threatening statements.
Gendron threatened to carry out a shooting at Susquehanna Valley High School in Conklin at the time of graduation, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Gendron had no further contact with law enforcement after a mental health evaluation that landed him in a hospital for a day and a half.
“No one called,” he said. “No one filed any complaints,” Gramaglia said. The threat was “general” in nature, she said, and not related to race.
New York is one of several states that have enacted “red flag” laws in recent years intended to try to prevent mass shootings by people showing warning signs that they might be a threat to themselves or others.
Those laws allow law enforcement officers, a person’s family, or, in some cases, medical professionals or school officials to petition the courts to temporarily seize a troubled person’s firearms or prevent them from purchasing firearms. .
Federal law prohibits people from owning a gun if a judge has determined they have a “mental defect” or have been forced into a mental institution, but an evaluation alone would not trigger the ban.
It’s unclear whether officials could have invoked “red flag” legislation after the incident at Susquehanna Valley High School. Police and prosecutors did not provide details about the incident, nor did they say when Gendron purchased the weapons used in the assault.
The long list of mass shootings in the US involving missed opportunities to intervene includes thewhere law enforcement officials had received numerous complaints about the gunman’s threatening remarks and the 2017 killing of more than two dozen people at a Texas church by a former US Air Force serviceman. that he was able to buy a gun despite a violent history.