Federal Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for White Supremacist Who Killed 10 Black People in Buffalo Supermarket Mass Shooting

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Federal prosecutors have made the decision to seek the death penalty against a white supremacist who committed a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, killing 10 Black people. The shooting took place in 2022, and the perpetrator, Payton Gendron, is currently serving a lifetime prison sentence with no possibility of parole after pleading guilty to state charges of murder and hate-motivated domestic terrorism.

The Justice Department cited the substantial planning involved in the shooting, including the selection of a location in Buffalo’s largely Black East Side neighborhood, in the decision to pursue the death penalty. The announcement of this decision comes as a response to the gunman’s promise to plead guilty in a separate federal hate crimes case if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Relatives of the victims expressed mixed views on the decision. Some emphasized their preference for the perpetrator to spend the remainder of his life in prison, while others acknowledged the scar left on them and the community of the East Side.

The gunman carried out the massacre in May 2022, livestreaming the attack and targeting shoppers and workers with a semi-automatic rifle. The victims, aged 32 to 86, included customers, a store security guard, and a church deacon who provided transportation to shoppers. The rifle used by the gunman contained racial slurs and phrases, contributing to the hateful nature of the crime.

The pursuit of the death penalty in this case is a rare move by the Justice Department under the current administration, as President Biden opposes capital punishment. This marks the first time Attorney General Merrick Garland has authorized the pursuit of the death penalty.

The decision made by federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Payton Gendron for the mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, which resulted in the deaths of 10 Black people, comes after he had already been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for state charges of murder and hate-motivated domestic terrorism. The ruling is expected to reignite debates about capital punishment and its role in addressing hate crimes.