The 18-year-old suspected of opening fire at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday told authorities he was targeting the Black community, according to an official familiar with the investigation.
The alleged gunman made disturbing statements describing his motive and state of mind following his arrest, the official said. The statements were clear and filled with hate toward the Black community. Investigators also uncovered other information from search warrants and other methods indicating the alleged shooter was "studying" previous hate attacks and shootings, the official said.
The revelation comes a day after a gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others at the Tops Friendly Markets store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. Eleven of the people who were shot were Black, officials said.
The suspect was identified as a rifle-toting 18-year-old from Conklin, New York, who allegedly wrote a White supremacist manifesto online, traveled about 200 miles to the store and livestreamed the attack, authorities said.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday the attack was a racist hate crime and will be prosecuted as such.
"The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime," he said. "This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind."
Investigators believe the suspect acted on his own in the shooting, Gramaglia said. The suspect was in Buffalo a day before the shooting and did some reconnaissance at the Tops Friendly Markets store, the commissioner said.
The victims included a former Buffalo police lieutenant working as a security guard and the 86-year-old mother of Buffalo's retired fire commissioner, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, a spokesman for Erie County Medical Center said Saturday night.
The demographics of the United States are changing, and the share of the population considered white is shrinking. This change is occurring faster than anticipated, thanks to the relative ages of white and nonwhite populations in the country — the nonwhite population trends significantly younger — and all national population growth is being driven by nonwhite groups, according to an analysis by Brookings. This confluence of death, birth, and immigration is in and of itself morally neutral, a matter of the natural ebb and flow of populations over time. But as the era of the white majority nears its end, a revanchist, racist right has treated the facts of demography as an occasion for a sweeping, violent moral panic.
Donald Trump’s ascendance was a key marker of the force of white racial panic; from the moment he launched his candidacy, his overt racism set the party’s agenda, and from the very first, his rhetoric directly provoked racist violence. Far from ebbing as Trump has ceased to be the party’s sole center, however, the tide of white animus has become even more central to a new crop of Congresspeople and candidates.
The Republican Party’s embrace of nativism has been more of a full-on dash than a slow slide, and it has been catalyzed by the vast constellation of right-wing media. Chief among these is the juggernaut that is Fox News. As a New York Times analysis revealed, the network’s flagship prime-time show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, has an obsession with replacement theory: In more than 400 shows the newspaper analyzed, Carlson evoked the idea of forced demographic change through immigration and other methods. Carlson is not alone: A Media Matters examination of Fox’s rhetoric throughout 2021 found that the network fulsomely embraced replacement theory, or, as it is more commonly known among extremists, “white genocide.” Such fears have become commonplace campaign talking points among Republican candidates: Ohio senatorial candidate J.D. Vance recently declared that Democrats are “bringing in a large number of new voters to replace those that are already here”; in Arizona, far-right state senator Wendy Rogers responded to an article about migrants with the ominous message, “We are being replaced and invaded.” Just hours after the mass shooting in Buffalo, Senate candidate Blake Masters posted a video appearance in which he declared that Democrats’ electoral strategy involves bringing in “millions” of immigrants to vote for them. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene rode extremism into Congress, long after sharing a video that declared that an “unholy alliance of leftists, capitalists, and Zionist supremacists has schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation, with the deliberate aim of breeding us out of existence in our own homelands.” This clamor — from politicians and pundits, candidates and conspiracy theorists — has become the radioactive center of the right’s policy.
Once you understand an obsession with racial composition and white fertility to be the driving engine of Republican politics, a number of seemingly disparate movements begin to fit together into an ugly whole. Some aspects are obvious: The anti-immigrant movement that has seen U.S. refugee admissions at historic lows and asylum seekers marooned in purgatorial camps in Mexico continues to dominate the right-wing airwaves. Historic levels of gerrymandering are ensuring that a diversifying populace remains beholden to the views of a white minority — alongside openly antidemocratic restrictions on voting and changes in election administration.
Other aspects are more veiled, but no less vitriolic. Years of fearmongering about transgender rights, and in particular their influence on youth, are linked to fears of waning fertility: anti-trans demagogues like Abigail Shrier describe trans bodies as “maimed and sterile,” and, as such, a chief motivation for the legion of anti-trans laws passed by state legislatures is the future fertility of trans children born female. The violent antifeminism of a far-right movement that sees women principally as vessels for breeding a new white generation expresses itself in a fixation on a return to “traditional” gender roles. And the culmination of generations of right-wing activism, which will secure the “domestic supply of infants,” as Justice Samuel Alito memorably put it, is poised to arrive in the form of the dissolution of Roe v. Wade. Payton Gendron, and those like him, are listening: like Brenton Tarrant, the mass shooter at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Gendron opened his manifesto with a screed on the supposedly apocalyptic consequences of “sub-replacement fertility rates” among white women.
In his manifesto, Gendron claims to have acted alone, while in the same breath admitting, “I’ve had many influences from others.” The 180 pages of the document reveal the breadth of those influences: it is largely pastiche, with page upon page of racist and antisemitic memes compiled in repulsive collages; collections of scientific studies of I.Q. differentials between racist groups; screenshots and links to news articles that confirm his prejudices; and segments of other manifestos, including Tarrant’s, bloat a thin line of racist scrawl. He may have, as he claims, become radicalized by over-enthused browsing of the Internet’s sewers, principally 4chan. But his fixations mirror those of the right wing more broadly, from violent transphobia to a loathing of immigration to a preoccupation with the possibility of civil war.
When the rhetoric of an entire movement devolves into Manichaean demonization of their political foes; when demographic shifts are represented as apocalyptic; and when a party can appeal to nothing but the consolidation of white power, it is an inevitability that such rhetoric will leave bodies in its wake. The Republican Party caters chiefly now to those who claim that to be born the wrong color is an act of genocide, and act with appropriate fervor. There has never been a lone wolf when it comes to racist terror in the United States; it suffuses every aspect of our politics and policy, and in latter years the mass howl of fear at change comes from a jaw that drips with blood. As long as we fail to recognize the wellspring of racial animus that animates the right wing in this country, the corpses will continue to accrue.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on Monday accused House GOP leadership of enabling white supremacy and antisemitism, which she suggested has inspired people to act upon those threats, leading to dangerous consequences.
"The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them," Cheney said in a tweet.