The white 18-year-old man accused of fatally shooting 10 Black people at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket was charged Wednesday by a grand jury with domestic terrorism motivated by hate and 10 counts of first-degree murder.
Payton Gendron, who has been in custody since the May 14 shooting, is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday in Erie County Court.
The 25-count indictment also contains charges of murder and attempted murder as a hate crime and weapons possession.
Gendron had previously been charged with one count of first-degree murder in the shooting, which also injured three people. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors told a judge on May 20 that the grand jury had voted to indict Gendron but did not disclose charges, saying proceedings were ongoing.
The domestic terrorism charge accuses Gendron of killing “because of the perceived race and/or colour” of his victims.
Former New York governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the domestic terrorism hate crime law in August 2019, in the wake of a mass shooting targeting Mexicans at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. The measure, dubbed the “Josef Neumann Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act” after an attack at a rabbi’s home in Munsey, N.Y., was signed into law on April 3, 2020, and took effect on Nov. 1, 2020.
The charge — domestic acts of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree — is punishable with a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Attack was live streamed
Murder charges were filed for each of the victims, who ranged in age from 32 to 86 and included eight shoppers, the store security guard and a church deacon who drove shoppers to and from the store with their groceries.
The gunman, carrying a recently purchased AR-15-style rifle, opened fire on Saturday afternoon shoppers at the only supermarket in the predominantly Black neighbourhood.
The shooting, followed 10 days later by a mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers inside a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, has renewed a national debate about gun control and violent extremism.
Federal authorities also are investigating the possibility of hate crime charges against Gendron, who allegedly detailed his plans and his racist motivation in hundreds of pages of writings he posted online shortly before the shooting. The attack was live streamed from a helmet-mounted camera.
Gendron drove about three hours from his home in Conklin, N.Y., intending to kill as many Black people as possible, investigators allege.
His lawyer, Brian Parker, said he had not seen the indictment and could not comment, adding that prosecution and defence lawyers have been barred by a judge from discussing the case publicly.