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Community focus shifts to preventing future hate crimes

On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced several executive orders that support her plan to combat domestic terrorism and gun violence.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul issued several executive orders in an effort to stop future hate crimes, like the one that took place on Saturday at Tops, from happening.   

But first, Bishop Darius Pridgen says, we as a community have to be willing, honest, and courageous enough to call this act what it was - "pure evil."

"If you are silent, you are in agreement," Pridgen says. "With all of the homicide funerals I've done, with all of the young people that have been arrested in the city of Buffalo for murder, I've never been asked about their mental health, not one time. So I wonder, what's the difference?"

The teenaged white gunman who opened fire, killing 10 innocent souls and injuring 3 others, had a written intention left in the form of a manifesto. A manifesto that outlined and expressed thoughts, feelings, and philosophies consistent with white supremacy. Police say, he also live-streamed his murders on social media. 

"Why are we even having the conversation about where his head is? He's evil. That's where his head was and his thoughts. They were on how he was gonna kill Black folks. That doesn't sound like a mental health issue to me," Pridgen shares.

According to law enforcement, last year, the suspect was questioned after he reportedly said his post-graduation goal was to commit murder/suicide.  

He was then placed under arrest and forced to have a mental health evaluation. However, the shooter was found not to be a threat and was released. We later now know he passed a background check and was able to purchase the weapon used to commit the murders at Tops.

Erie County Sheriff John Garcia says, from the very beginning it was very clear what he was looking at. 

"For me, it was very obvious from the beginning that it was a hate crime, and his hate was directed towards African Americans. From the time that we received the evidence that was coming in. It was clear and I wanted people to know exactly what happened, why it happened," Garcia says.

"Legislation and laws need to change,"  he continues. "We're going to have to see if there's any legislation that can be passed, where we balance, the freedom of speech, and at the same time are able to get ahead of these demented people that cause so much damage. And I hope law enforcement is at the table during these conversations."

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