A federal judge on Thursday pushed federal prosecutors to decide whether they will pursue the death penalty for Payton Gendron, the white supremacist who is accused of killing and terrorizing Black people at a Buffalo supermarket last month.
Gendron said he had to carry out the massacre “for the future of the white race,” a federal criminal complaint against the alleged shooter shows.
The 18-year-old explained his motive in an apology letter to his parents obtained by federal investigators. Gendron shot 13 people with an assault rifle at Tops Friendly Market in a mostly Black neighborhood on May 14, leaving 10 Black people dead.
“This case has now been around for a month. I would hope the Department of Justice would undertake steps that would reasonably bring about” a decision whether to seek the death penalty, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schroeder said.
In the note made public by Gendron’s federal indictment, he “apologized to his family for committing ‘this attack’ and stated that he ‘had to commit this attack’ because he cares ‘for the future of the White race.'”
The federal complaint also alleges the man’s motive for the attack “was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race and to inspire others to commit similar attacks.”
The U.S. Department of Justice charged the suspected mass killer with 26 federal counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses Wednesday. He faces 25 state criminal counts for murder, weapons possession and attempted murder as a hate crime. According to reports, Gendron did not enter a plea for the federal charges but pleaded not guilty to the state counts.
The assailant live-streamed the shooting on Twitch and published details of his plans for the mass shooting online.
The postings show Gendron plotted the attack several months beforehand. He hid his weapons and ammunition from his parents in his room and car. Gendron wrote in an online chat portal that he was afraid he would be caught after his father intercepted a speeding ticket he received while returning home from scoping the store more than 200 miles away from his Conklin, New York, home.
Federal investigators found the note while searching the home hours after the shooting. The FBI also found a receipt for a candy bar purchased at the grocery store on March 8 and handwritten sketches of the store’s layout, according to the complaint. He reportedly went to the Tops store to count the number of Black people inside and check out where the security guard was posted, the federal complaint against Gendron says.