A mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which left 10 dead and three others wounded, is being investigated as a “racially motivated” hate crime, authorities have said.
The 18-year-old gunman, who was wearing military-style clothing and body armour, opened fire with a rifle at a Tops Friendly Market at around 2.30pm on Saturday afternoon, while a camera affixed to his helmet filmed the scene.
The suspect, who is white, appeared before a judge later that day, where he was arraigned and charged with first-degree murder charges, to which he pleaded not guilty.
He was identified in court papers as 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin in New York State, which lies around 200 miles south-east of Buffalo.
Joseph Gramaglia, city police commissioner, said: “He exited his vehicle. He was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear. He had a tactical helmet on. He had a camera that he was livestreaming what he was doing.”
The shooting was broadcast on the platform Twitch for at least two minutes before it was shut down by the service, according to the Associated Press.
In total, 13 people were shot, Buffalo Police confirmed. Eleven of the victims were black and two were white; four were store employees.
The supermarket is in a predominately black neighbourhood, about three miles north of downtown Buffalo.
Stephen Belongia, from the FBI’s Buffalo office, said: “We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially-motivated violent extremism.”
He also said there was evidence of “racial animosity.”
According to CBS News, the gunman shouted racial slurs during the shooting and may have had a racial slur written on his weapon.
Witnesses reported hearing dozens of shots being fired inside the building, as SWAT teams rushed to the scene.
Among those killed was the security guard, a retired police officer who had tried to shoot the suspect, police said.
The gunman was confronted by Buffalo Police in the vestibule of the supermarket, according to Gramaglia, at which point the suspect put the gun to his own head.
“Buffalo police personnel – two patrol officers – talked the suspect into dropping the gun,” he said. “He dropped the gun, took off some of his tactical gear, surrendered at that point. And he was led outside, put in a police car.”
Witness Grady Lewis who had been across the street from the supermarket told local media that he saw the man open fire. “I saw the guy go in, army-style, bent over, just shooting at people,” he said.
Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, had pulled up into the car park just as the suspect was trying to leave the scene.
“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like what the heck is going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face?” Mr Kephart said.
“He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun, and was tackled by the police,” he added.
Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, said it was “the worst nightmare that any community can face”.
“We are hurting and we are seething right now,” he said. “The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
John Garcia, the Erie county sheriff, added: “This was pure evil. It was straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the city of Good neighbors … coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us.”
Derrick Johnson, NAACP President, called the shooting “absolutely devastating” and said in a statement: “Our hearts are with the community and all who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy.
“Hate and racism have no place in America. We are shattered, extremely angered and praying for the victims’ families and loved ones.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said: “It is my sincere hope that this individual, this white supremacist who just perpetrated a hate crime on an innocent community, will spend the rest of his days behind bars. And heaven help him in the next world as well.”
Tops Friendly Markets released a statement saying: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
President Joe Biden said he and the First Lady were praying for the victims and their families, adding: “We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement does its work, but we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth: A racially-motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation.
“Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America.”