Racist gunman gets life sentence for Buffalo grocery store massacre

The white supremacist who killed 10 Black people in a Buffalo supermarket was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Peyton Gendron pleaded guilty in November to charges including murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate. The terrorism charge carried an automatic life sentence.

Before imposing sentence, Erie County Court Judge Susan Eagan spoke of the insidious legacy and impact of white supremacy in the United States.

“Let us be the generation to put a stop to it,” Eagan said. “We can do better. We must do better. Our own humanity requires it.”

Eagan spoke about the life of each of the victims as she imposed additional life sentences for each of the ten counts of first-degree murder. Under the law, those sentences will run concurrently. Gendron was also sentenced to 25 years on each of three counts of attempted murder, to be served consecutively.

The judge had harsh words for Gendron, telling him he would never see the light of day as a free man ever again.

“There is no place for you or your ignorant hateful ideologies in this civilized society,” Eagan said. “There can be no mercy for you, no understanding, no second chances. The damage you have caused has been too great, and the people that you hurt are too valuable to this community.”

Gendron made a brief statement during the proceedings, standing in his orange prison jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled as he apologized for the pain that he forced the victims and their families to suffer through.

“I did a terrible thing that day. I shot and killed people because they were Black. Looking back now, I can’t believe I actually did it,” Gendron said. “I believed what I read online and acted out of hate. I know I can’t take it back but I wish I could, and I don’t want anyone to be inspired by me and what I did.”

Proceedings disrupted by spectator

Gendron had to be hustled out of the courtroom Wednesday after someone in the audience rushed at him and was restrained by a court officer.

His sentencing in the attack, which was fueled by racist conspiracy theories he encountered online, resumed shortly after the disruption. The incident happened as Barbara Massey Mapps excoriated him for killing her 72-year-old sister, Katherine Massey. As Mapps shouted and pointed at Gendron, a person in the audience took a few steps towards him before getting held back.

“You don’t know what we’re going through,” a man shouted as he was led away by court officers. For several minutes afterwards, family members hugged and calmed each other.

Judge Eagan ordered Gendron back in and let the proceedings resume after about 10 minutes, admonishing everyone to “conduct ourselves appropriately.”

“I understand that emotion, and I understand the anger, but we cannot have that in the courtroom,” she said.

Gendron pleaded guilty in November to charges including murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate. The terrorism charge carries an automatic life sentence.

Victims’ families speak out

The sentencing was a chance for loved ones of the dead, as well as people wounded in the attack last spring, to pour out their loss, anguish and anger.

Some, like Massey Mapps, angrily condemned him; others quoted from the Bible or said they were praying for him. Several condemned him for his deliberate attack on a Black community far from his almost all-white hometown.

“You’ve been brainwashed,” Wayne Jones Sr., the only child of victim Celestine Chaney, said as sobs rose from the audience. “You don’t even know Black people that much to hate them. You learned this on the internet, and it was a big mistake.”

“I hope you find it in your heart to apologize to these people, man. You did wrong for no reason,” Jones said.

Kimberly Salter, the widow of security guard Aaron Salter, explained that she and her family were wearing “red for the blood that he shed for his family and for his community, and black because we are still grieving.”

Christopher Braden, a Tops Friendly Market employee who was shot in the leg, said he was haunted by seeing the victims where they lay as he was carried out of the store.

“The visions haunt me in my sleep and every day,” he said.

At one point, Gendron started crying himself.

Racist attack shook community

Gendron, now 19, wore bullet-resistant armor and a helmet equipped with a live-streaming camera as he carried out the May 14 attack. He killed his victims with a semiautomatic rifle, purchased legally but then modified so he could load it with high-capacity ammunition magazines that are illegal in New York.

There were only three survivors after he shot 13 people, specifically seeking out Black shoppers and workers.

His victims at Tops Friendly Market included a church deacon, the grocery store’s guard, a neighborhood activist, a man shopping for a birthday cake, a grandmother of nine and the mother of a former Buffalo fire commissioner. The victims ranged in age from 32 to 86.

In documents posted online, Gendron said he hoped the attack would help preserve white power in the US He wrote that he picked the Tops grocery store, about a three-hour drive from his home in Conklin, New York, because it was in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Gendron could still face federal charges

Gendron also faces separate federal charges that could carry a death sentence if the US Justice Department chooses to seek it. New York state does not have the death penalty.

Gendron’s admission of guilt on the state charges is seen as a potential help in avoiding a death sentence in the penalty phase of any federal trial. In a December hearing, defense attorney Sonya Zoghlin said Gendron is prepared to enter a guilty plea in federal court in exchange for a life sentence.

The mass shooting in Buffalo, and another less than two weeks later that killed 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary schoolamplified calls for stronger gun controls, including from victims’ relatives who traveled to Washington, DC to testify before lawmakers.

New York legislators quickly passed a law banning semiautomatic rifle sales to most people under the age of 21. The state also banned sales of some types of body armor.

President Joe Biden signed a compromise gun violence bill in June intended to toughen background checks, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders and help states put in place red flag laws making it easier for authorities to take weapons from people adjudged to be dangerous.

Includes reporting from the Associated Press

Contact reporter Sean Lahman at Follow him on Twitter @seanlahman.

This article originally appeared on the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo grocery store shooting: Peyton Gendron sentenced to life

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