NEW YORK, Feb. 15 (AP) — A white supremacist who killed 10 black people at a Buffalo supermarket was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after relatives of his victims spoke to him about the murder of 10 black people. Pain and anger caused by racist attacks.
Anger briefly turned to sentencing for Payton Gendron when he was accused by a man in the audience, who was quickly overpowered.
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Proceedings resumed about 10 minutes later, with more emotion expressed by those who lost loved ones or were themselves injured in the attack.
Gendron, whose hatred was fueled by racist conspiracy theories he encountered online, cried during some of his testimony and apologized to the victims and their families in a brief statement.
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Some angrily denounced him; others quoted the Bible or said they were praying for him. Some pointed out that he deliberately attacked a black community far from his almost entirely white hometown.
“You’re brainwashed,” said Wayne Jones Sr., the only daughter of the victim, Celestine Chaney, as sobs erupted from the audience. “You don’t even know black people well enough to hate them. You learn it online, which is a big mistake.”
“I hope you apologize to these people from the bottom of your heart, man. You did it wrong for no reason,” Jones said.
Gendron pleaded guilty in November to murder and hate-motivated domestic terrorism, a charge that carries an automatic life sentence.
“There was no mercy, no understanding, no second chances for you,” Judge Susan Egan said in sentencing.
Gendron, 19, also faces separate federal charges that could carry the death penalty if the Justice Department chooses to seek the death penalty. His defense attorney said in December that Gendron was preparing to plead guilty in federal court to avoid execution.
Gendron, who wore bulletproof armor and a helmet equipped with a live camera during the May 14 attack, used a semi-automatic rifle he had legally purchased but had modified so he could load it with illegal high-capacity magazines.
Tamika Harper, the niece of victim Geraldine Talley, said she hoped Gendron would pray for forgiveness.
“Do I hate you? No, do I want you dead? No, I want you to live. I want you to think about it every day of your life,” she said gently. “Thinking of my family and the nine other families you have ruined forever.”
Gendron looked at Harper as she spoke, then looked down and began to cry.
Kimberly Salter, the widow of security guard Aaron Salter, explained that she and her family wore “red because he shed blood for his family and community and black because We are still grieving.”
Christopher Braden, a Tops Friendly Market employee who was shot in the leg, said he was devastated to see the victim lying there as he was carried out of the store.
“These visions haunt me in my sleep and every day,” he said.
Barbara Macy Maples has accused him of killing her 72-year-old sister Catherine Macy. When Mapps yelled and pointed at Gendron, a man in the audience took a few steps towards him and was stopped.
“You have no idea what we’re going through,” one man yelled as he was led away by court officials. For several minutes afterwards, the family hugged and calmed each other down.
Egan then ordered Gendron to come back and let the proceedings go ahead after admonishing everyone to “behave properly.”
In a brief statement, Gendron admitted he “shot people because they were black.”
“I believed what I read online and acted out of hate, now I can’t take it back but I hope I can, I don’t want anyone to be inspired by me,” he said as a woman in the court audience stood up , screaming “we don’t need” his remarks, and stormed out.
He shot and killed 13 people while specifically looking for black shoppers and workers, of whom only three survived.
His victims at Topps Market included a church deacon, grocery store guard, a community activist, a man buying a birthday cake, a grandmother of nine and the mother of a former Buffalo fire commissioner . The victims ranged in age from 32 to 86 years old.
In documents posted online, Gendron said he hoped the attack would help preserve white power in America. He wrote that he chose Tops grocery store, about a three-hour drive from his home in Conklin, N.Y., because it was in a predominantly black neighborhood.
While Gendron is guaranteed a life sentence, he also faces separate federal charges that could carry the death penalty if the Justice Department chooses to seek the death penalty. New York State does not have the death penalty.
Gendron’s guilty plea in state court may help him avoid the federal death penalty. At a hearing in December, defense attorney Sonya Zoghlin said Gendron was prepared to plead guilty in federal court in exchange for a life sentence.
The mass shooting in Buffalo and another that killed 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school less than two weeks later have amplified calls for tougher gun control, including from those traveling to Washington. The voices of victims’ relatives who testified before lawmakers in D.C.
New York lawmakers quickly passed a law banning the sale of semiautomatic rifles to most people under the age of 21. The state also banned the sale of certain types of body armor.
President Joe Biden signed a compromise gun violence bill into law in June aimed at strengthening background checks, preventing more domestic violence offenders from using guns and helping states enact red flag laws that would make it easier for authorities to move from being judged dangerous to The weapon was taken from the hands of the man. (Associated Press)
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