BUFFALO, N.Y. — Two months following the mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue, a federal grand jury indicts the accused shooter on 27 counts.
On Thursday, Payton Gendron, 19, of Conklin, New York was indicted on 14 violations of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (Shepard-Byrd Act) and 13 firearms offenses in connection with the mass shooting.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross for the Western District of New York, and Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia of the FBI Buffalo Field Office made the announcement Thursday afternoon.
The suspected shooter has been held without bail since his arrest shortly after the May 14 attack at a Tops Friendly Supermarket, which killed 10 people and injured three others.
The indictment alleges the suspect opened fire at the grocery store with a Bushmaster XM rifle. It also charges that the suspect violated the Shepard-Byrd Act by willfully causing the death of the victims because of their actual and perceived race and color.
Of the charges against the alleged shooter for violation of the Shepard-Byrd Act, 10 counts are of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts are of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill three injured individuals, and one hate crimes count alleging that Gendron attempted to kill additional Black people in and around the Tops grocery store.
The indictment also includes special findings alleging the suspect committed the crimes after "substantial planning and premeditation to commit an act of terrorism."
“Today, a grand jury has indicted Payton Gendron with hate crime and firearms offenses following the horrific attack on the Black community of Buffalo that killed 10 people and injured three others on May 14, 2022,” Garland said.
“The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy. We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.”
If convicted, Gendron faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Attorney General Garland will decide if he will seek the death penalty at a later time. Law requires that should Garland determine the circumstances justify a death sentence, a notice needs to be filed with the court a reasonable time before the trial.