BUFFALO, New York -- Payton Gendron pleaded guilty Monday to the racist murders of 10 Black people at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo.
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Gendron pleaded guilty to 15 charges in all, including domestic terrorism motivated by hate, murder, and attempted murder. He still faces more than two dozen federal charges, some of which carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Gendron "planned and carried out a racially motivated attack" spurred by white supremacist ideology that specifically targeted Black peoples, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.
Flynn said Gendron illegally modified his gun, and practiced shooting at state parks in Broome County.
Gendron traveled more than three hours from his home near Binghamton, New York to carry out the shooting in a predominantly black neighborhood of East Buffalo after posting on social media about the racist replacement conspiracy theory.
The attack was caught on a Tops supermarket surveillance camera and a helmet camera worn by Gendron that he used to livestream on Twitch.
A 180-page document believed to have been posted on the internet by the suspect is a hate-filled screed fixated on the notion of "replacement theory," a white supremacist belief that non-whites will eventually replace white people because they have higher birth rates, authorities said. The document also contained the names of past mass shooters he admired, according to Flynn.
Shonnell Harris Teague, an Operations Manager at Tops, said she saw the Gendron sitting on a bench outside of her Tops store the day before the shooting. He sat outside the store for several hours dressed in the same camouflage outfit with a camper bag on his back, she said.
"He had the same clothes on, but he had camper gear on his back like he was asking people for change," Teague said.
Gendron entered the store several hours later in the evening, and appeared as if he was bothering customers, she said. Teague asked him to leave, and he did so without an argument.
The next time Teague saw him, was in the midst of the mass shooting at her store. She had escaped out of Tops' back receiving doors when she saw Gendron.
"I see him with his gear on and his gun and how it was all strapped on," Teague said. "And he shot a man that was already, I don't know if the man was moving. He must have shot him again."
Gendron wore tactical gear that included a helmet, fatigues and body armor, which protected him from a security guard's return fire.
An initial hearing for Gendron's anticipated change of plea was canceled because of the storm that dropped multiple feet of snow on parts of Western New York.
Gendron was initially charged in a 25-count indictment with carrying out a "domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate" along with ten counts of murder in the first degree, ten counts of murder in the second degree as a hate crime, three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime and one count of criminal possession of a weapon.
Gendron became the first defendant to be charged under the state's relatively new statute domestic terrorism motivated by hate, which was adopted in 2020 by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo. It followed the El Paso Walmart shooting that targeted Latinos. The statute is named for Josef Neumann, who was stabbed to death at a rabbi's home during Hanukkah of 2020.
"That charge only has one sentence if the defendant is found guilty of that charge-- life in prison without parole," Flynn said at the time the indictment was unsealed.
Flynn paid tribune to the security guard, Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer, who shot at Gendron with a 9mm handgun, giving store patrons time to escape.
Gendron will be sentenced in court on February 15.