A gunman wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in what authorities described as “racially motived violent extremism,” killing 10 people and wounding three others on Saturday before he surrendered.
Police said the gunman, who wore body armour in addition to military-style clothing, pulled up in the afternoon and opened fire on shoppers at a Tops Friendly Market, with the shooting streamed via a camera affixed to the man’s helmet.
“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,” city Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a news conference afterwards.
Mr Gramaglia said the gunman initially shot four people outside the store, three fatally. Inside the store, a security guard who was a retired Buffalo police officer fired multiple shots at the gunman and struck him, but the bullet hit the gunman’s bulletproof vest and had no effect, Mr Gramaglia added. The commissioner said the gunman then killed the security guard.
Video also captured the assailant as he walked into the supermarket where he shot several other victims inside.
Police said 11 of the victims were Black and two are white. The supermarket is in a neighbourhood with mostly black people, a few kilometres north of downtown Buffalo.
“This is the worst nightmare that any community can face, and we are hurting and we are seething right now,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at the news conference. “The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
Mr Gramaglia said Buffalo police entered the store and confronted the gunman in the vestibule.
“At that point the suspect put the gun to his own neck. Buffalo police personnel — two patrol officers — talked the suspect into dropping the gun. 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,” he said.
Buffalo gunman 'pure evil'
The suspected gunman was later identified as Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, a New York state community about 300 kilometres south-east of Buffalo, 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 arraigned in court on Saturday evening on first-degree murder charges and ordered detained without bail.
Another court hearing is scheduled for next week.
“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'" New York Governor Kathy Hochul said, speaking near the scene of the attack. "And heaven help him in the next world as well,”
President Joe Biden called for more action against hate crime in a statement released after the shooting.
"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. Hate must have no safe harbour. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fuelled domestic terrorism," Mr Biden said.
Derrick Johnson, president of the anti-racist group NAACP, called the shooting “absolutely devastating.”
“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,” he said.
Separately, the Rev Al Sharpton called on the White House to convene a meeting with Black, Jewish and Asian “to underscore the Federal government [is] escalating its efforts against hate crimes.”
In a tweet, Rev Sharpton said that “leaders of all these communities should stand together on this!”
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 aimed at the supermarket.
At the scene in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon, police closed off an entire block, lined by spectators, and yellow police tape surrounded the car park.
Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, pulled into the car park just as the shooter was exiting. They described him as a white male in his late teens or early twenties sporting full camouflage, 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?” Mr Kephart said. He dropped to his knees. “He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun, and was tackled by the police.”
More than two hours after the shooting, Erica Pugh-Mathews was still waiting outside the supermarket, waiting for news of her aunt.
“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.”