Buffalo mass shooting suspect called 'coward' while exiting court hearing

The suspect allegedly killed 10 people and wounded three others.

May 19, 2022, 4:37 PM

As loved ones of the victims looked on, an 18-year-old suspect accused of fatally shooting 10 people in what authorities described as a racially motivated rampage, appeared in court Thursday and was called a "coward" by someone at the hearing.

The suspect, Payton Gendron, entered the Buffalo, New York, City Court wearing an orange jumpsuit, a white face mask and chains on his legs and hands and surrounded by numerous court officers. Gendron appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest under his jumpsuit.

Prosecutors said a grand jury had indicted him on first-degree murder, but all charges remain under seal.

Judge Craig D. Hannah adjourned Thursday's one-minute hearing. The hearing was scheduled to be a felony hearing, but because Gendron has been indicted, the judge scheduled his next hearing for June 9, when he is expected to be arraigned on charges in the grand jury indictment.

PHOTO: Buffalo shooting suspect, Payton S. Gendron, appears in court accused of killing 10 people in a live-streamed supermarket shooting in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y., May 19, 2022.
Buffalo shooting suspect, Payton S. Gendron, appears in court accused of killing 10 people in a live-streamed supermarket shooting in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y., May 19, 2022.
Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

Gendron was represented at the hearing by three court-appointed attorneys.

Erie County Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush informed the judge that the grand jury indictment of Gendron was handed up on Wednesday.

Relatives and family members of victims killed in the shooting at a grocery store Saturday crowded into the courtroom to watch. Gendron entered and left under heavy guard.

A woman sitting in the courtroom gallery was overheard yelling, "Payton, you're a coward" as he exited the courtroom.

PHOTO: Buffalo shooting suspect, Payton S. Gendron, appears in court accused of killing 10 people in a live-streamed supermarket shooting in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y., May 19, 2022.
Buffalo shooting suspect, Payton S. Gendron, appears in court accused of killing 10 people in a live-streamed supermarket shooting in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y., May 19, 2022.
Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

"The defendant continues to remain held without bail. There will be no further comment from our office until there is a report following an investigation by the Grand Jury," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in a statement. "As are all persons accused of a crime, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."

No additional charges have been made public.

Gendron made no comments in court.

Gendron was initially charged with one count of murder following Saturday afternoon's massacre at a Tops Friendly Market in which police officials alleged he intentionally targeted Black people in the attack he planned for months. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered to be held without bail.

PHOTO: Payton Gendron is led out of the courtroom after a hearing at Erie County Court, in Buffalo, N.Y., May 19, 2022. Gendron faces charges in the May 14, fatal shooting at a supermarket.
Payton Gendron is led out of the courtroom after a hearing at Erie County Court, in Buffalo, N.Y., May 19, 2022. Gendron faces charges in the May 14, fatal shooting at a supermarket.
Matt Rourke/AP

Three additional people, including two white victims, were wounded in the shooting, police said.

Gendron is expected to face additional murder and attempted murder counts and state hate crime charges. The FBI is also conducting a parallel investigation, which the Department of Justice said could lead to federal hate crime and terrorism charges.

During a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, President Joe Biden called the mass shooting an act of "domestic terrorism."

All 10 of the people killed in the attack were Black, six women and four men. Three other people were wounded in the shooting, including one Black victim and two white victims.

Investigators said Gendron drove three hours from his home in Conklin, New York, and alleged he spent Friday conducting a final reconnaissance on the store before committing the mass shooting Saturday afternoon.

Authorities allege Gendron was wielding an AR-15-style rifle, dressed in military fatigues, body armor and wearing a tactical helmet with a camera attached when he stormed the store around 2:30 p.m., shooting four people outside the business and nine others inside. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the suspect fired a barrage of 50 shots during the rampage.

Police said Gendron allegedly livestreamed the attack on the gaming website Twitch before the company took down the live feed two minutes into the shooting.

Among those killed was 55-year-old Aaron Salter Jr., a retired Buffalo police officer who was working as a security guard at the supermarket. Authorities said Salter fired at the gunman, but the bullets had no effect due to the bulletproof vest the suspect wore.

Buffalo police officers arrived at the store one minute after getting the first calls of an active shooter and confronted the suspect, who responded by placing the barrel of the rifle to his chin and threatening to kill himself, according to Gramaglia. He said the officers de-escalated the situation and talked Gendron into surrendering.

Meanwhile, Tops Friendly Markets announced Thursday that it plans to reopen the store where the massacre occurred.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced that the evidence collection phase of the investigation has been completed and the store is being turned back over to Tops.

Tops President John Persons, who attended the news conference, said the store will not reopen until the company can assess what repairs and renovations will be needed to "open it in a respectful manner for our associates, our employees and for the community at large."

Persons said the renovations will include some way to memorialize the victims of the shooting.

"We have been committed to the city of Buffalo since our founding 60 years ago and this event doesn't stop that commitment," Persons said. "We will be here. We will be in this store."

Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI Buffalo field office, said that during the evidence collection phase, the FBI used state-of-the-art scene-scanning tools, spherical and drone photography, conducted a bullet trajectory analysis of the shooting and reconstructed the crime. He said the evidence will allow the FBI to produce sophisticated digital 3D and physical recreation of the incident.

"We are determined to hold the person responsible for this horrific attack accountable," Belongia said. "Our work to collect evidence is a critical part of that effort."

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