CONKLIN, New York — He allegedly spent months in his bedroom planning and preparing for his brutal, racist attack at a supermarket that he planned to livestream via a GoPro camera.
He selected his guns in part because he knew the media would obsess over them and modified his assault rifle to carry more bullets. He described both his plans and his clothes in excruciating detail, down to his ill-fitting underwear. He said he'd keep killing until dead or confronted by police.
And over and over and over, he ranted racist beliefs that white people are being replaced by Black and Latinos - a belief system parroted by other mass shooters.
That account, taken from documents, police accounts and personal writings from the suspect, paints a picture of the nation's latest mass shooter. Although USA TODAY has decided not to quote directly from the suspect's writings, it is providing general details in an attempt to show how such mass attacks are often planned and carried out, particularly with respect to how weapons and targets are selected. Such general, non-specific details give authorities and the public information that could help citizens spot future mass shooters and even prevent them.
The federal government has repeatedly warned that white supremacist violence is a growing problem nationally, and President Joe Biden a year ago declared that "white supremacy is terrorism."
Many members of the Black community are angry the shooter seemed to have escaped close scrutiny by law enforcement that spends a disproportionate amount of time policing Black neighborhoods. Like many white mass shooters, Gendron was allowed to surrender to police, instead of being shot dead.
Lemar Williams, who has lived in Buffalo since the 1970s, had planned to take his nephew to work at Tops that Saturday. But his nephew got a call that he didn’t have to go to work that morning — moments later, he found out why. Like many in the neighborhood, Williams wants to know why no one stopped the shooter before he executed the detailed plans he'd posted online.
“I want to know why the government didn’t have no scope on this kid,” Williams said. “The government got a scope on everybody, so why didn’t they have one on this young man that assassinated and killed people?”
In Payton Gendron's hometown, about 200 miles east of Buffalo where police say he carried out the attack, his neighbors and former co-workers remain stunned by his Saturday afternoon assault on the Tops Friendly Markets. Thirteen people were shot, 10 fatally. Gendron drove the long distance to the store he selected, he wrote, because he knew it served a predominately Black neighborhood, and would be crowded on a Saturday afternoon.
“Who would think, at age 18, growing up in such a beautiful community, to have such hate?” said Jane Lazaros, who owns a diner in Conklin. "What is all this hate?"
Like many residents of the 5,000-person town, Lazaros knew Gendron, considered him a regular, a quiet, young man.
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Harrison Gage worked with Gendron at Conklin Reliable Market for about three months this past winter. Gage said Gendron was trained as a cashier but worked mostly behind the deli counter, making sandwiches to order and not really interacting with customers.
When news of Gendron’s violent alleged acts reached his hometown, Gage said he was “upset, but not surprised.”
Authorities confirm Gendron threatened an attack at his high school last year, but declined to elaborate on the specific nature of the threat. That incident resulted in a referral for a mental health evaluation, a law enforcement official told USA TODAY on Sunday.
The incident was reviewed by state authorities at the time, but did not result in any formal "red flag" warning that could have prevented his subsequent firearms purchases. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, said the suspect's parents were cooperating with authorities.
Shortly after the shooting, a large contingent of FBI agents and state troopers descended upon the Gendron family home, one of several two-story houses bounded by woods in a rural area.
His family bought the 2,932-square-foot home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms in 2002, online property records show.
The name of the accused gunnman's mother, Pamela Gendon, is on the deed for the home and property. She and her husband, Paul Gendon, are listed as professional engineers in a New York State licensing database.
Other state records list Pamela Gendon as an employee of the New York State Department of Transportation offices in Binghamton. A spokesman for the agency did not respond to a call seeking comment.
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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, said that while New York has strict gun laws, the shooter was able to buy a modified assault rifle, legally. However, he wasn't allowed to buy a high-capacity ammunition magazine for the weapon in New York, she said during a Sunday appearance on NBC's Meet the Press newscast.
"You just go over to Pennsylvania," a state that borders New York not far from where the suspect lived, said Hochul.
That is "exactly what we think he did," added Hochul, who said she planned to introduce proposed tougher New York gun control measures on Tuesday.
The gunman left little doubt about his plans.
In his screed, he said he'd bought the assault rifle at Vintage Firearms in Endicott, N.Y., not far from his home, and then modified it with parts from a kit that cost roughly $60.
The shop owner, Robert Donald, could not be reached on Monday. However, he previously told The New York Times that his paperwork confirmed the sale. Robert also said he didn't recall the transaction and would not have sold the weapon unless the buyer successfully passed a required background check.
Since the massacre, the gun store's Facebook page has featured criticism from people who called on Donald to close the business. However, one commenter, Jeff Skenandore, responded to the critics in a Facebook post.
"All those on here blaming the owner...why? The owner followed the stringent gun laws that NY has and the federal laws that require a background record check on all those who want to buy a gun" from a licensed firearms dealer, wrote Skenandore.
Nonetheless, the accused shooter seemingly left little doubt about the racist nature of his planned attack. The assault rifle's stock bore the words "Here's your reparations," followed by an expletive – an apparent reference to the movement that seeks compensation for Black Americans for the enslavement of their ancestors. He also wrote references to Black Lives Matter and a white nationalist phrase.
The defendant's screed also referred to what's known among radical right organizations and media as the replacement theory, an unsupported belief that powerful forces are trying to replace white Americans with newcomers of color.
Buffalo attack highlights most lethal domestic threat: Racist, extremist violence
Conklin, the defendant's home town, had an overwhelmingly white population in the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau results. In all, 91.9% of the population there identified as white, while 0.6% identified as Black or African American, and 7.6% identified as Latino or Hispanic.
Like many other mass shooters, Gendron published extensive writings detailing his motivations, plans and preparation, from the ammo he'd use to the ill-fitting underwear he'd have on and how fast he could exit his blue Ford Taurus.
In one post, whose authenticity was confirmed by experts, Gendron said he'd dropped out of school but pretended to go every day to fool his parents. He referred to himself as autistic in some areas, but in another document described himself as "perfectly sane."
Taken together, his writings and postings depict a socially isolated man looking for a community, experts said.
"And online is where he found that place," said Kesa White, a program research associate at the American University Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL). "He's on these sites, 4Chan and Reddit and Discord, and they're a toxic cesspool of people egging one another on."
PERIL and the SPLC in June 2020 published a guide warning parents and caregivers that pandemic isolation combined with largely unfettered and unmonitored online access could provide extremist groups a new crop of recruits.
In his writing, Gendron specifically cited the isolation and boredom of pandemic lockdowns as giving him time to explore gun-related sites, which led him to racist meme sites and then rightwing propaganda. White said that's a typical progression for people who become radicalized.
White said parents and caregivers need to pay close attention to what kids are seeing online, especially in the absence or a teacher or other adult.
"You may never know what your child is consuming online," she said. "You can go pretty much anywhere and become radicalized."
Contributing: Adria R. Walker and Mary Chao 趙 慶 華, USA TODAY Network
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Payton Gendron: Details emerge about Buffalo shooting racist motive