BUFFALO, N.Y. — A gunman opened fire with a rifle Saturday at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what authorities called a “hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism,” killing 10 people and wounding three others before being taken in custody, law enforcement officials said.
The suspect was identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, about 200 miles southeast of Buffalo in New York state, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. The officials were not permitted to speak publicly on the matter and did so on the condition of anonymity. The suspect was being questioned Saturday evening by the FBI, one of the officials said.
Officials said 11 of the victims are Black and two are white. The shooting happened in a predominantly Black neighborhood a few miles north of downtown Buffalo.
Details on the number of additional people shot at the Tops Friendly Market and their conditions weren’t immediately available. The two officials were not permitted to speak publicly on the matter and did so on the condition of anonymity.
Investigators believe the gunman may have been streaming the shooting through a camera affixed to his helmet, one of the officials said. A video showed the gunman, dressed in military gear, pulling up to the front of the store with a rifle on the front seat and then pointing the rifle at people in the parking lot as he exited the vehicle and opening fire, the official said.
It also shows the suspect walking into the supermarket and shooting several other victims inside, the official said. One of the victims was a recently retired police officer who was working as a security guard at the store, according to the official.
One of the officials cautioned the investigation was in its preliminary stages and that authorities hadn’t yet discerned a clear motive, but were investigating whether the shooting was racially motivated.
Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, pulled into the parking lot just as the shooter was exiting. They described him as a white male in his late teens or early twenties sporting full camo, a black helmet and what appeared to be a rifle.
“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?” Kephart said. He dropped to his knees. “He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun, and was tackled by the police.”
At the White House, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden is receiving regular updates on the shooting and its aftermath.
“The president has been briefed by his Homeland Security advisor on the horrific shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., this afternoon. He will continue to receive updates throughout the evening and tomorrow as further information develops,” she said, adding the president and first lady were praying for the victims and their loved ones.
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.”
Police closed off the block, lined by spectators, and yellow police taped surrounded the full parking lot. Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz were at the scene late Saturday afternoon, gathered in a parking lot across the street from the Tops store and expected to address the media.
More than two hours of the shooting, Erica Pugh-Mathews was waiting outside the store, behind the police tape.
“We would like to know the status of my aunt, my mother’s sister. She was in there with her fiance, they separated and went to different aisles,” she said. “A bullet barely missed him. He was able to hide in a freezer but he was not able to get to my aunt and does not know where she is. We just would like word either way if she’s OK.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted that she was “closely monitoring the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo,” her hometown. She said state officials have offered help to local authorities. The Erie County Sheriff’s Office said on social media that it ordered all available personnel to assist Buffalo police.
Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the shooting, Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley said.
The shooting came little more than a year after a March 2021 attack at a King Soopers grocery in Boulder, Colorado, that killed 10 people. Investigators have not released any information about why they believe the man charged in that attack targeted the supermarket.
Story by Carolyn Thompson, Michael Balsamo and Dave Collins. Associated Press reporters John Wawrow in Buffalo and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report. Balsamo reported from Washington and Collins reported from Hartford, Connecticut.