A federal grand jury returned an indictment Thursday charging the alleged Buffalo, New York, mass shooter with federal hate crimes.
The indictment starts the clock for Attorney General Merrick Garland to consider the death penalty.
Payton Gendron, then 18, is accused of storming a Tops grocery store on May 14 and gunning down 10 people, all of whom were Black, in an alleged hate crime.
At one point, Gendron allegedly aimed his Bushmaster XM rifle at a white Tops employee, who was shot in the leg and injured, Garland told reporters last month. Gendron allegedly apologized to him before continuing the attack, Garland said.
Gendron is accused of planning the massacre for months, including driving to the store to sketch the layout and count the number of Black people present, Garland said.
The federal hate crime charges were announced last month. Gendron will now be arraigned on the indictment, during which he will enter his plea and the prosecution can formally proceed with setting the hearing and trial dates.
The 27-count indictment charges Gendron, now 19, with 14 violations of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act: "10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill three injured individuals, and one hate crimes count alleging that Gendron attempted to kill additional Black people in and around the Tops grocery store," according to a statement from the Department of Justice. He's also charged with 13 firearms offenses.
Gendron was allegedly motivated by a racist, far-right conspiracy known as replacement theory and he wanted to "inspire others to commit similar attacks," according to a criminal complaint. Markings on the rifle used in the shooting including the phrases "here's your reparations" and "the great replacement," the complaint said.
Garland said in a statement Thursday, "We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them."
The Justice Department said in a statement, "The Attorney General will decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later time. Should the Attorney General determine that the circumstances of the offense are such that a sentence of death is justified, the law requires that notice be filed with the court at a reasonable time before trial."
The indictment comes one day before the Tops store plans to reopen to the public.