Buffalo shooter who killed 10 at Tops supermarket faces federal death penalty

In a court filing Friday, the Justice Department stated that it will seek the death sentence for Payton Gendron, the then-19-year-old who killed ten people in a racially motivated shooting at a Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May 2022.

“United States believes the circumstances in Counts 11-20 of the Indictment are such that, in the event of a conviction, a sentence of death is justified,” according to the petition.

Lawyers for Gendron previously stated that if the death sentence was removed from the table, he would consider pleading guilty to the federal charges.

When prosecutor Joe Tripi formally advised the judge of the government’s intent to seek the death penalty on Friday, Gendron was not there.

Although the defense waived Gendron’s presence, Judge Lawrence Vilardo stated that he would have to appear in court soon.

“There’s going to come a point in the relatively near future when he’s going to need to be here,” said Vilardo. Sonya Zoghlin, an assistant federal defense, answered, “I’m sure the court is completely confident we are communicating with him appropriately.”

Buffalo shooter who killed 10 at Tops supermarket faces federal death penalty

The next court appearance is scheduled for February 2.

In their filing, federal prosecutors stated that “Gendron intentionally killed Roberta Drury, Pearl Young, Hayward Patterson, Ruth Whitfield, Celestine Chaney, Aaron W Salter Jr., Andre Mackniel, Marcus Morrison, Katherine Massey, and Geraldine Talley.”

The Justice Department also cited Gendron’s willful infliction of physical harm, intentional participation in an act that resulted in death, and the shooting’s apparent racism.

“Payton Gendron expressed bias, hatred, and contempt toward Black persons and his animus toward Black persons played a role,” according to the complaint.

The defense stated it was “deeply disappointed” with the DOJ’s decision to seek the death sentence.

“Rather than a prolonged and traumatic capital prosecution, the efforts of the federal government would be better spent on combatting the forces that facilitated this terrible crime, including easy access to deadly weapons and the failure of social media companies to moderate the hateful rhetoric and images that circulate online,” Zoghlin said in a press release.

In July 2022, a federal grand jury indicted Gendron on 14 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act: “10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts 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,” according to a statement from the FBI. In addition, he was charged with 13 gun violations.

According to a police complaint, Gendron was motivated by a racist, far-right conspiracy known as replacement theory, and he wanted to “inspire others to commit similar attacks.” According to the accusation, markings on the gun used in the shooting included the phrases “here’s your reparations” and “the great replacement.”

During his tenure, Garland has pursued two death penalty cases: one against Sayfullo Saipov, who killed eight people with a truck on a Manhattan bike path in October 2017, and another against Robert Bowers, who killed 11 people in a shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018. A jury chose not to sentence Saipov to death but instead sentenced Bowers to death.

Both of those cases, however, were carried over from the previous administration, and in July 2021, Garland instituted a moratorium on the death penalty. The moratorium is still in effect.

The decision to pursue the death sentence comes after more than a year of internal Justice Department deliberation. Garland has previously expressed his opposition to the death sentence in public, while President Joe Biden campaigned on legally abolishing it at the federal level. However, in the absence of a clear policy created by the Biden administration, DOJ officials have discussed a so-called “worst-of-the-worst” standard for when recommending the death penalty is acceptable in some of the most heinous incidents of hate-fueled mass terror.

Victims’ families said they met with prosecutors earlier Friday and learned the DOJ was seeking the death sentence.

Buffalo shooter who killed 10 at Tops supermarket faces federal death penalty

Mark Talley, the son of shooting victim Geraldine Talley, told reporters that while the choice pleased some, he believed Gendron was “getting off the hook” if he was sentenced to death.

“For me, I want something worse than that,” Mark Talley said outside the federal courthouse in Buffalo. “I want to torture him, I want him to suffer, and I want everything he ever loved to suffer.” I don’t want his friends and family to suffer. I want the worst thing that could possibly happen to him to happen.”

“As far as I’m concerned, I think he’s getting off the hook getting the death penalty because he won’t get that suffering that I want,” he said. “As long as I’m alive, whether God gives me 20, 30, or 60 years, I wanna be able to see him suffer.”

Wayne Jones, whose mother, Celestine Chaney, was slain in the attack, also stated his opposition to the death penalty.

“I just wanted him to suffer as much as we’ve had to suffer,” Jones explained to ABC News. “But I know in our group, there were people who didn’t want anything else but death.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown backed the DOJ’s decision to seek the death penalty, saying it would serve as a “deterrent for this type of terrible crime.”

“I think it’s the right decision,” Brown said at a press conference on Friday. “Ten innocent lives in this community were taken, three other members of the community were injured and the shooter traveled more than three hours away from Buffalo to commit this heinous crime.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul also backed the DOJ’s ruling.

“This complies with the DOJ requirements for what constitutes a death penalty offense,” she said on Friday during an unrelated press conference. “This community is still reeling from the atrocity of 10 innocent people on May 14 in 2022, simply going about shopping and were targeted — targeted because of the color of their skin by a white supremacist who was radicalized online.”

In February 2023, Gendron was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on state counts after pleading guilty to 15 offenses, including domestic terrorism motivated by hatred, murder, and attempted murder.

Judge Susan Eagan of Erie County Court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for each of the ten people he killed on May 14, 2022, at the Tops market, and to 25 years for each of the three victims he shot and wounded.

During the sentencing hearing, Gendron apologized briefly, saying he was “very sorry for all the pain” he had caused and “for stealing the lives of your loved ones.”

“I did something terrible that day.” “I shot people because they were Black,” stated Gendron.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *