Buffalo gunman pleads guilty to 15 charges, including domestic terror motivated by hate

The suspect accused of killing 10 people and injuring three others in a mass shooting at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y., in May pleaded guilty on Monday to state charges stemming from the attack.

Payton Gendron, 19, pleaded guilty to 15 state-level counts: 10 counts of first-degree murder; three counts of attempted murder motivated by hate; criminal weapons possession; and domestic terrorism motivated by hate — a charge that carries a punishment of life in prison without parole.

All 10 of those killed in the May 14 massacre were Black.

Appearing inside a courtroom packed with relatives of the victims, Gendron answered a series of questions from the judge before entering his guilty pleas. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 15, 2023.

Payton Gendron, wearing a mask and orange prison clothing, appears in court.
Payton Gendron appears in court in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 19. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Gendron previously pleaded not guilty to separate federal hate crimes over the attack and could face the death penalty.

Authorities say Gendron posted a manifesto online detailing his plans to target Buffalo’s Black population, driving nearly 300 miles from his home in Conklin, N.Y., with an AR-15-style rifle to carry out the attack at Tops Friendly Market, which he livestreamed with a helmet camera. He surrendered to authorities at the scene.

The 180-page manifesto contained a litany of racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories, including the “great replacement” theory, which maintains that people in power are replacing white Americans with people of color through immigration.

The baseless, once-fringe conspiracy theory has been echoed by numerous Republican politicians and right-wing media figures, including Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

A woman wipes away tears while attending the reopening of the Tops Friendly supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., on July 15.
A woman wipes away tears while attending the reopening of the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on July 15. (Lauren Petracca/Reuters)

The rampage in Buffalo was followed by the deadly mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, reigniting the national debate over gun control.

In June, President Biden signed into law bipartisan gun legislation that bolstered mental health programs and school safety and closed the so-called boyfriend loophole, under which unmarried people convicted of domestic abuse could still obtain weapons.

Biden applauded the progress made by lawmakers but urged Congress to do more, calling for a ban on assault weapons.

Subsequent mass shootings, including those at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., and an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., have only renewed Biden’s resolve.

“When will we decide we’ve had enough? We must address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all of its forms,” he said in a statement following the Nov. 19 shooting at Club Q in Colorado. “Earlier this year, I signed the most significant gun safety law in nearly three decades, in addition to taking other historic actions. But we must do more. We need to enact an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war off America’s streets.”