An 18-year-old white gunman shot dead 10 people and wounded three others at a grocery store in a black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, before surrendering after authorities called him a “racially motivated violent extremist.”
Authorities say the suspect, who appeared to be armed with an assault-style rifle and appeared to be acting alone, flew to Buffalo from his home in New York County, “hours away,” to carry out the Saturday afternoon attack, which was broadcast on the Internet.
Of the 13 people killed in the gunfight, 11 were black, officials said. The other two were white. The ethnic fragmentation of the dead was not made clear.
The suspect, whose name was not immediately released by police, was armed with a heavy weapon and was wearing tactical clothing, including body armor, police said.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said in a news briefing that when confronted by officers at a vestibule in the store, the suspect held a gun to his own neck but they told him to drop the weapon and surrender.
Gramaglia said the gunman shot and killed three people in the parking lot of Tops Friendly Market before exchanging gunfire with a former police officer working as a store security guard, but the suspect was protected by his body armor.
One of the 10 people shot was a guard and the other nine were customers. Three other employees of the store, part of a regional chain, were injured but are expected to survive, authorities said.
Shonell Harris, a Tops manager, told the Buffalo News that he thought he heard about 70 shots and fell several times as he ran through the store and exited.
“He looked like he was in the army,” he told the newspaper, describing the assassin in disguise.
Retired firefighter Katherine Crofton, who lives nearby, said she saw bleeding start from her porch.
“I saw him shoot this woman,” Crofton told the paper. “He was just going to the store. And then he shot another woman. He was putting groceries in his car. I got down because I didn’t know if he was going to shoot me.”
FBI Special Agent Stephen Belangia, who is in charge of the bureau’s Buffalo field office, said the attack would be investigated under both federal law, a hate crime and “racially motivated violent extremism.”
“This guy was absolutely evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia told a news conference, his voice trembling with emotion. “This is a racially motivated hate crime directly from someone outside our community.”
The suspect is expected to appear in his first court to face murder charges at the end of the day, officials said.
“This is a day of great sorrow for our community,” Buffalo Mayor Brian Brown told reporters. “Many of us have been to and from this supermarket many times. … We cannot allow this despicable person to divide our community or our country.”
Brown said he received calls from the White House and New York Attorney General Letitia James.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the attack appeared to be the work of a violent white supremacist.
“We must pass a national anti-terrorism law without delay,” he wrote on Twitter.