Justice Dept. Seeks Death Penalty for White Supremacist in Buffalo Massacre

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Federal prosecutors in western New York have decided to seek the death penalty against a white supremacist responsible for the massacre of 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket. Payton Gendron, 20, has already been serving a life sentence without parole after pleading guilty to state charges of murder and hate-motivated domestic terrorism in the 2022 attack.

Despite New York’s lack of capital punishment, the Justice Department had the option to pursue the death penalty in a separate federal hate crime case. Gendron had agreed to plead guilty in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty. This decision has sparked mixed views from the relatives of the victims, with some expressing their preference for a life sentence for the perpetrator.

The Chairman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for western New York, Trini Ross, stated that the decision to pursue the death penalty was influenced by the specific targeting of Black victims, the extensive planning leading up to the attack, and the deliberate selection of a vulnerable victim due to old age and infirmity.

This move by the Justice Department is considered a rare occurrence under President Joe Biden, who does not support capital punishment. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s authorization of the pursuit of the death penalty for Gendron marks the first time he has done so. Despite instituting a moratorium on federal executions in 2021, the Justice Department has proceeded cautiously in seeking the death penalty.

Gendron carried out the attack in May 2022 at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo using racial slurs and livestreaming the massacre from a camera attached to his tactical helmet. Among the casualties were customers, the store security guard, and a church deacon. The rifle used by Gendron was marked with racial slurs and references to a conspiracy theory about diminishing the influence of white people.

On May 14, 2022, Gendron carried out the deadly attack that resulted in the loss of 10 innocent lives at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The decision to seek the death penalty has been met with mixed reactions from the families of the victims and has raised further questions about the application of capital punishment in hate crime cases.