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Crime

Feds interview deadly supermarket shooting suspect’s parents

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By Carolyn Thompson And Michael Balsamo in Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Federal agents interviewed the parents of the teenager accused of shooting and killing 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket and served multiple search warrants, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Federal authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page manifesto that was posted online, which detailed the plot and identified Gendron by name as the gunman, the official said. Authorities say the shooting was motivated by racial hatred.

Payton Gendron’s parents were cooperating with investigators, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the investigation into the Saturday afternoon shooting publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

A preliminary investigation found Gendron had repeatedly visited sites espousing white supremacist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories and extensively researched the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the man who killed dozens at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, the official said.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Gendron had traveled about 200 miles from his Conklin, New York, to Buffalo and that particular grocery store, but investigators believe Gendron had specifically researched the demographics of the population around the Tops Friendly Market and had been searching for communities with a high number of African American residents, the official said. The market is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

“It’s just too much. I’m trying to bear witness but it’s just too much. You can’t even go to the damn store in peace,” Buffalo resident Yvonne Woodard told the AP. “It’s just crazy.”

In a Sunday interview with ABC, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said that Gendron had been in town “at least the day before.”

“It seems that he had come here to scope out the area, to do a little reconnaissance work on the area before he carried out his just evil, sickening act,” Gramaglia said.

Police said Gendron shot, in total, 11 Black people and two white people Saturday in a rampage that the 18-year-old broadcast live before surrendering to authorities. Screenshots purporting to be from the Twitch broadcast appear to show a racial epithet scrawled on the rifle used in the attack, as well as the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.

“We pray for their families. But after we pray — after we get up off of our knees — we’ve got to demand change. We’ve got to demand justice,” state Attorney General Letitia James said an emotional church service in Buffalo on Sunday morning. “This was domestic terrorism, plain and simple.”

Among the dead was security guard Aaron Salter — a retired Buffalo police officer — who fired multiple shots at Gendron, Gramaglia said Saturday. A bullet hit the gunman’s armor, but had no effect. Gendron then killed Salter, before hunting more victims.

“He cared about the community. He looked after the store,” Yvette Mack, who had shopped at Tops earlier Saturday, said of Salter. “He did a good job you know. He was very nice and respectable.”

Also killed was Ruth Whitfield, 86, the mother of retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told churchgoers that he saw the former fire official at the shooting scene Saturday, looking for his mother.

“My mother had just gone to see my father, as she does every day, in the nursing home and stopped at the Tops to buy just a few groceries. And nobody has heard from her,” Whitfield told the mayor then. She was confirmed as a victim later in the day, Brown said.

Katherine Massey, who had gone to the store to pick up some groceries, also was killed, according to the Buffalo News. The names of the rest of the victims hadn’t been released.

Twitch said in a statement that it ended Gendron’s transmission “less than two minutes after the violence started.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, called for the tech industry to take responsibility for their role in propagating hate speech in a Sunday interview with ABC.

“The CEOs of those companies need to be held accountable and assure all of us that they’re taking every step humanly possible to be able to monitor this information. How these depraved ideas are fermenting on social media – it’s spreading like a virus now,” she said, adding that a lack of oversight could lead to others emulating the shooter.

The mass shooting further unsettled a nation wracked with racial tensions, gun violence and a spate of hate crimes. A day before, Dallas police had said they were investigating shootings in the city’s Koreatown as hate crimes. The Buffalo attack came just a month after a shooting on a Brooklyn subway wounded 10 and just over a year after 10 were killed in a shooting at a Colorado supermarket.

Gendron, confronted by police in the store’s vestibule, put a rifle to his neck but was convinced to drop it. He was arraigned later Saturday on a murder charge, appearing before a judge in a paper gown.

___

Balsamo reported from Washington.

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Alberta

Calgary police charge teen accused of trying to hire someone to murder another youth

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Calgary police are accusing a 16-year-old of trying to hire someone to kill another youth.

Police say in a release that they began investigating last month after getting a complaint.

After a six-week investigation, police say officers gathered enough evidence to support charging the teen.

Staff Sgt. Colin Chisholm says the allegations are disturbing and police are thankful they could investigate before anything tragic happened.

The teen was arrested on Tuesday and is charged with counselling to commit murder, breach of a court order and possession of marijuana.

The suspect cannot be named under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

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Alberta

Alberta judge finds man guilty of manslaughter in death of one-year-old son

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By Daniela Germano in Edmonton

An Alberta judge has found a man guilty of manslaughter in the death of his one-year-old son as well as of assaulting his young daughter.

The man’s lawyer argued in court that the father should be found not criminally responsible for his son’s death in November 2019.

Rory Ziv argued that a severe sleep disorder put the man from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., in a state of automatism, which made him incapable of understanding his actions when he killed his son and injured his daughter, who was five at the time.

There is a publication ban on identifying the girl because she is a minor.

The man testified at trial that he has no memory of hurting his children, saying he fell asleep on the couch while caring for them. He said he dreamt he was being attacked and awoke to find that he injured his children.

A sleep expert also testified at trial after examining the man two years following the boy’s death. Dr. Colin Shapiro said he found “thumbprints” of parasomnia, a disorder in which people do things while asleep that they are unaware of, such as sleepwalking.

Shapiro testified he saw multiple arousals during the man’s deep sleep.

The man was initially charged with second-degree murder, but the prosecution asked the judge to consider a verdict of manslaughter instead.

Crown attorney Sandra Christensen-Moore said at trial earlier this month that evidence suggested the man was intoxicated at the time of the attack, which would affect his ability to form the intent needed for second-degree murder.

In announcing his verdict Wednesday, Justice John Henderson said it was more likely that the accused was suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms from his opioid addiction and lashed out at his children.

Court heard that the man has a history of substance abuse with cocaine, alcohol, heroin and prescription opioids. He admitted to self-medicating his back pain with heroin and illegally obtained Percocet.

Henderson said the man got into an argument with is partner the day of his son’s death and threw a plate in the woman’s direction because they did not have enough money for him to buy cigarettes.

“Certainly there is no doubt on the evidence that (the man) was having serious sleep difficulties and serious back pain at the time of these events,” the judge said.

“I’m also satisfied that the evidence is very clear that he was experiencing other stressors, including financial issues and relationship issues. He was also experiencing significant symptoms of heroin withdrawal.”

But Henderson said the defence was not able to prove that the man was in a state of automatism when he attacked his children.

“While I am satisfied that there is some evidence that could potentially support the conclusion of automatism, when I consider the totality of the evidence, I find it is not possible to come to that conclusion.”

The father is to be sentenced at a later date.

The judge said the man, who was prone to explosive outbursts, adapted his story about what happened the day of his son’s death as a way to rationalize his behaviour.

Henderson said such rationalization was most evident in the “evolving story” of the man’s dream of being teleported and attacked by a shadow creature during which he was trying to protect his children.

“This story did not exist for more than one year after (the boy’s) death and it only began evolving thereafter.

“The story was crafted to satisfy a narrative that would lead to a conclusion of automatism.”

Henderson noted that a forensic psychologist testified that the man had unresolved anger issues.

The judge said the man became overwhelmed by his situation and burst out in an aggressive and disproportionate manner when striking his children.

“I conclude that this explanation is for the attack is much more likely than the conclusion of automatism.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

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