Feds Will Seek Death Penalty Against Buffalo Mass Shooter

Justice Department under Biden rarely supports capital punishment
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 12, 2024 12:15 PM CST
Feds Will Seek Death Penalty Against Buffalo Mass Shooter
Police secure an area around the Buffalo supermarket where a mass shooting took place in May 2022.   (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP, File)

Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a white supremacist who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, they said in a court filing Friday. Payton Gendron, 20, is already serving a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole after he pleaded guilty to state charges of murder and hate-motivated domestic terrorism in the 2022 attack. New York does not have capital punishment, but the Justice Department had the option of seeking the death penalty in a separate federal hate crimes case, per the AP.

In a notice announcing the decision to seek the death penalty, Trini Ross, the US attorney for western New York, wrote that Gendron had selected the supermarket "in order to maximize the number of Black victims." This is the first time Attorney General Merrick Garland has authorized a new pursuit of the death penalty. Under his leadership, the Justice Department has permitted the continuation of two capital prosecutions and withdrawn from pursuing death in more than two dozen cases.

The Buffalo victims, who ranged in age from 32 to 86, included eight customers, the store security guard, and a church deacon who drove shoppers to and from the store with their groceries. Three people were wounded but survived. The rifle Gendron fired was marked with racial slurs and phrases including "The Great Replacement," a reference to a conspiracy theory that there's a plot to diminish the influence of white people.

(More Buffalo shooting stories.)

Get breaking news in your inbox.
What you need to know, as soon as we know it.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.