A white man who earlier this year traveled to a Buffalo, New York, grocery store and killed 10 African Americans, including Black Press writer Katherine Massey, pleaded guilty to 25 criminal counts Monday and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
A grand jury previously indicted Payton Gendron, 19, on domestic terrorism, first-degree murder, attempted murder, hate crimes and weapons possession for the May 14 massacre.
A single domestic terrorism motivated by hate charge carries an automatic life sentence upon conviction.
Prosecutors said Gendron acknowledged that he committed the heinous crimes “for the future of the white race.”
A lawyer for the victims indicated relief that the state’s case didn’t go to trial.
“It avoids a lengthy trial that they believe would be very difficult for the families,” said Terrence Connors, an attorney representing the victims’ families.
“I think it was pretty clear they had no real defense.”
Gendron, a self-described white supremacist, previously pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges. Federal law allows for the death penalty in those cases.
He still faces 27 federal counts, including 10 counts of hate crimes resulting in deaths, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill, and 13 counts of using, carrying, or discharging a firearm related to a hate crime.
Prosecutors said Gendron possessed a 180-page manifesto that revealed troubling perceptions the self-avowed white supremacist had.
He complained of the dwindling size of the white population and included his fears of ethnic and cultural replacement of white people.
Gendron, who described himself as a fascist and an antisemite, livestreamed the shooting spree, which left 10 dead and several more wounded.
“While past violent white supremacist attacks seem to have factored into this heinous act, we must acknowledge that extremist rhetoric espoused by some media and political leaders on the right promoting theories that vilify or dehumanize segments of our society like ‘the great replacement theory’ is a factor too,” wrote U.S. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson in an earlier statement.
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell added that the organization condemns the white supremacist terrorist attack targeting Black men and women in Buffalo and the racist rhetoric that has sparked such violence.
“The constant repetition of white supremacist conspiracy theories on social media and even mainstream media outlets has led to horrific violence in places as distant as Christchurch, El Paso, Oslo, and Charleston,” Mitchell asserted earlier. “Those who promote racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry must be held accountable for the violence they inspire.”
Mitchell added that CAIR has often spoken against those who promote the “great replacement” and other racist conspiracy theories.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told National Newspaper Publishers Association’s live daily morning show “Let It Be Known” that Gendron surveilled both the community and the grocery store as part of the attack’s planning.
Brown said the teen surveilled the area for several days and targeted a busy place in an area predominantly populated by Black people.
Gendron’s manifesto noted, “Zip code 14208 in Buffalo has the highest Black percentage that is close enough to where I live.”
According to the U.S. Census, the zip code is 78% Black and among the top 2% of zip codes nationwide with the highest percentage of the Black population. In addition, it has the highest rate of the Black population of any zip code in upstate New York.
“Well, this manifesto tells everything to us. And that is what’s so bone-chilling about it is that there is the ability for people to write and subscribe to such philosophies filled with hate,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said after the shootings.
“The white supremacist acts of terrorism that are being fermented on social media and to know that what this one individual did has been shared with the rest of the world as well as the livestreaming of this military-style execution that occurred in the streets of my hometown,” Hochul said.
Massey, 72, one of Gendron’s victims, spent her life trying to clean up and help her community. After retiring from Blue Cross Blue Shield, she remained active in her community as the Cherry Street block club president and as a columnist for the Buffalo Challenger, an NNPA member newspaper.
“She was the greatest person you will ever meet in your life,” nephew Demetrius Massey told reporters.