Saturday, November 26, 2022

Payton Gendron in Buffalo court after mass shooting


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BUFFALO — Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old charged with murdering 10 people at a supermarket here less than a week ago, is scheduled to appear Thursday before a judge who may be asked to decide whether he can remain in custody while an investigation continues.

Gendron will be in a courtroom for the second time since his arrest Saturday at a Tops supermarket about two miles from the courthouse in a largely Black neighborhood. Authorities say the alleged white supremacist targeted that community because of the hatred he harbored for minorities, fueled by an obsession with false theories about replacing White people that proliferate on the Internet.

New York law gives a defendant who is in custody after a felony arrest the right to a hearing unless he is indicted quickly, generally within five days. If prosecutors from the Erie County District Attorney’s Office give notice on Thursday that a grand jury has already indicted Gendron, no hearing will be necessary. If not, a judge may hear evidence to decide whether Gendron can remain in the county lockup, where he has been held without bail since his arraignment hours after the shooting.

On May 17, President Biden rebuked white supremacy in remarks remembering the victims of the May 14 Buffalo supermarket shooting. (Video: The Washington Post)

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Gendron’s attorney could also waive the deadline.

The next steps in the matter are expected to be disclosed at Thursday’s proceeding, which is set for 9:30 a.m. in front of Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig D. Hannah.

Police say Gendron traveled three hours from his home in Conklin, N.Y., to target African Americans with his Bushmaster XM-15 rifle. He is believed to have posted a screed online that revealed a paranoid obsession with a racist conspiracy theory claiming White Americans are intentionally being replaced by non-White immigrants.

He has pleaded not guilty to state murder charges. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the killings as a possible hate crime.

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The shooting victims included elderly patrons and a retired Buffalo police officer working as a security guard at the store. Authorities say the officer, Aaron Salter Jr., died trying to stop the rampage.

At the Gendron home in Conklin on Wednesday, days after the property in a quiet neighborhood of lush, sprawling lawns near Binghamton was searched by the FBI, no one answered the door. The driveway was empty except for a portable basketball hoop anchored by sandbags.

On the front porch was a round cement weight that appeared to be a remnant of Gendron’s preschool days. The weight, which was holding down one corner of a mat, had a mold of a tiny right hand and a quarter-size heart etched next to the thumb. “PAYTON” and “2008” were impressed above and below the handprint.

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At dismissal time at Susquehanna Valley High School, where Gendron graduated last year, students poured into a parking lot behind a long stretch of fencing adorned with the message “SV [HEART] BUFFALO,” visible to anyone passing through the center of the small town.

Nearby, at the Conklin Reliable Market, a roadside sign read: “Prayers for the People of Buffalo: United in Sorrow.”

Gendron worked at the store from July to September 2021 and was seen by his co-workers as an introvert, said owner John Gage, who said he did not recall his former employee having any altercations with others in the store.

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Gage said Gendron gave his two weeks’ notice last year without much discussion, except a mention that he was quitting to go to school. He enrolled at SUNY Broome Community College, where a spokeswoman has said his enrollment officially ended in March.

Gage said the Conklin community is tolerant — stressing that Gendron’s alleged racism does not reflect the feelings of most people in the town.

“I feel 100 percent … for the people who have gone through this,” the 53-year-old business owner said. “Our community and God is watching over them, and hopefully it will comfort them.”

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