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Broome County District Attorney addresses Buffalo mass shooting suspect's mental health

'You can't really evaluate someone thoroughly in a short period of time,' Broome County District Attorney Mike Korchak said.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Broome County District Attorney Mike Korchak says that under existing law, Payton Gendron's mental health evaluation last year did not and could not trigger the state's Red Flag law

Korchak held a news conference Wednesday at the District Attorney's office in Binghamton, four days after 10 people died and three more were wounded in a mass shooting at the Tops Market on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo.

He appeared on the 2 On Your Side Town Hall on Wednesday evening.

"You can't really evaluate someone thoroughly in a short period of time," Korchak told 2 On Your Side's Michael Wooten. "That's the constraints that the mental health professionals work under, that there's a short window, a small window of time for them to evaluate someone.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't prevent someone from having a mental health crisis the next day, or six months from there, or a year from there." 

He recounted the circumstances of early June of 2021 when a teacher reported that Gendron discussed a murder/suicide in a chat during an online class. Gendron was a senior at Susquehanna Valley High School at the time.

Korchak says the teacher questioned him about the comment and that Gendron claimed he was only joking.

Nevertheless, the teacher reported the incident to the school, which called New York State Police.

"At that point in time, with no long mental health history, what happened on Saturday couldn't be detected clearly at that point," Korchak said. "What prosecutors are looking at now is what happened after that incident, up until last Saturday, to try and piece together how something this terrible could happen."

A trooper went to Gendron's home in Conklin where Korchak says he once again called the comments a joke.

Police then took the 17-year-old to the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, or C-PEP, at Binghamton General for an evaluation.

Korchak says Gendron was kept overnight and released to his parents the next day.

He later returned to school, participated in graduation ceremonies without incident, and even had a graduation party.

Korchak says that because the mental health professionals at C-PEP determined that he wasn't a danger to himself or others, there would not have been just to seek a judge's order barring him from purchasing or possessing firearms under the state's Red Flag law.

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