The latest on the Buffalo supermarket mass shooting

By Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0234 GMT (1034 HKT) May 18, 2022
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3:14 p.m. ET, May 17, 2022

Buffalo mayor says he is hopeful for change after meeting with Biden

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden met individually with the families of the victims in the Buffalo supermarket shooting on Tuesday, Mayor Byron Brown said.

“The President didn’t hurry through those meetings, didn’t rush through the people that were hurting and in pain and spent a lot of time individually with families, which I think shows his compassion and his commitment to change,” he said. 

Brown said that he felt “a strong sense of resolve and commitment in the President to try and bring change as it relates to these kinds of situations.”

In his conversations with Biden, Brown said they talked about gun control and what could be done to end mass shootings.

“As it relates to gun control in this country, change has been very elusive,” Brown said. “There are those in Washington who have put the needs and the desires of the gun manufacturers ahead of the lives of Americans. That has to stop. I think the President will not forget.”

“The President seemed very moved by what he saw here in this community,” he said. 

Brown also visited the growing memorial outside of the Tops Friendly Markets store with the President and first lady. 

“It was a somber moment. It was an emotional moment,” Brown said. 

Brown said the CEO of Tops supermarket has told him they want to open the store as quickly as possible, as he understands the importance of the store to the community. Tops is helping get residents to the company's other supermarkets for groceries and to fill prescriptions in the meantime, he said.

2:23 p.m. ET, May 17, 2022

Key things to know about Buffalo's mayor and how he's responding to the supermarket mass shooting

From CNN's Greg Krieg

Mayor Byron Brown greets family members of victims of the Tops Friendly Market shooting in Buffalo on Tuesday.
Mayor Byron Brown greets family members of victims of the Tops Friendly Market shooting in Buffalo on Tuesday. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, the city’s first Black elected leader, was alongside President Biden today as he visited a memorial for the victims of the Buffalo mass shooting and laid flowers there. Biden thanked the mayor and law enforcement during remarks later Tuesday, saying Brown has been "wonderful."

Brown, who was also the first Black politician elected to the New York state Senate from outside New York City, told CNN on Monday night he would speak to Biden about the easy availability of guns, hate speech, especially by public figures, and its amplification on social media.

The mayor won reelection as a write-in candidate last year after losing the Democratic primary to democratic socialist India Walton. Brown has at times been a divisive figure among Buffalo Democrats, but in the aftermath of the killings he has emerged as powerful voice against the far-right conspiracy theories, including one cited in an online diatribe by the alleged Buffalo gunman, that are increasingly animating conservative political commentary and Republican Party rhetoric.

Brown was first elected as a state lawmaker in 2000. His 2005 mayoral triumph was a breakthrough for Black political leaders in Buffalo, which had seen a string of Black Democrats defeated in their attempts to win the city’s top job.

Considered a rising star in the party, Brown in 2008 was briefly considered a potential replacement for Hillary Clinton in the Senate after then-President-elect Barack Obama signaled he would nominate her for secretary of state. But then-Gov. David Paterson ultimately appointed Kirsten Gillibrand, then a House member from upstate, to the post, which she held ever since. 

Brown, too, has kept hold of his job, winning re-election four more times. He recently became the city’s longest-serving mayor.

On Tuesday morning, before the Bidens arrived in Buffalo, Brown told CNN that two more people have been arrested after making threats in the aftermath of the attack.

“There have been a number of internet messages about crimes potentially being committed, phone calls made already yesterday and the day before,” Brown said. 

In spite of the threats, Brown has encouraged the CEO of Tops Friendly Markets, the scene of the shootings, to quickly re-open the store, he said. 

“The Tops Supermarket on Jefferson Avenue is a center for this community,” Brown told CNN Monday. “The community is loyal to the market. It is a center of community. People come here to shop. People come here for information. They come here to connect with each other.”

Brown also singled out far-right public figures promoting “White Replacement Theory” in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, saying they were complicit in deadly violence that rocked his city over the weekend.

“Yes they are partially to blame for the radicalization of people in this country and indoctrinating them into attitudes and feelings of hatred towards others,” Brown said.

1:29 p.m. ET, May 17, 2022

Pennsylvania gun store owner says Buffalo suspect legally purchased a shotgun in December 2021

From CNN's Brian Todd and Jennifer Hauser

The owner of a Pennsylvania gun store told CNN that Buffalo mass shooting suspect Payton Gendron passed a background check at the store and legally purchased a Mossberg 500 shotgun in December 2021.

The shotgun was not the weapon used in Saturday’s mass shooting. However, the suspect's online posting claims he was planning to use that shotgun to shoot other people as he drove away from the grocery store. The December 2021 date is more than a year later than the date the suspect cites in his online posting.

The owner of Pennsylvania Guns and Ammo in Great Bend, Pennsylvania, who did not want his name used, said the suspect was 18 at the time and was “normal, quiet and asked basic questions about the firearm.” The owner said the suspect claimed he wanted the gun for target practice.

The owner told CNN that in his opinion, the suspect should not have cleared the background check because of a previous mental health evaluation over a threat investigation. However, authorities have said that investigation did not rise to the level of a mental health commitment and did not involve a specific threat and therefore did not warrant further action.

1:29 p.m. ET, May 17, 2022

Biden says there is "not much" more he can do on gun reform executive action

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Biden expanded upon his remarks Tuesday following meetings with Buffalo shooting victims’ families as he prepared to return to Washington.

He conceded there were limited steps left that he could take on gun reform via executive action.

“Not much on executive action,” he said, but added that he has “to convince Congress that we should go back to what I passed years ago.”

Meaningful gun reform, Biden added, is “going to be very difficult, but I’m not going to give up trying.”

During his speech Tuesday, Biden referenced the crime bill, saying "there are certain things we can do. We can keep assault weapons off our streets. We've done it before. I did it when I passed the crime bill last time, and violence went down, shootings went down."

Pressed on whether Republicans who have promoted "replacement theory" deserve blame, Biden said, “I believe that anybody who echoes replacement is to blame. Not for this particular crime. But it’s for no purpose, no purpose, except profit and or political benefit. And it’s wrong. It’s just simply wrong.”

When asked what his message was to the victims’ families on Tuesday, he said, “They’re going to be in pain for a long while but they will get to the point where … they’ll smile before they cry, and that’s when they know you’re going to make it. Until then, you’re not sure, but it will happen.”

1:15 p.m. ET, May 17, 2022

Biden says Buffalo mass shooting is "terrorism" and calls White supremacy a "poison"

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Biden called the mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday "terrorism."

"What happened here is simple and straightforward: terrorism, terrorism, domestic terrorism, violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group," the President said.

The 18-year-old White shooting suspect posted a 180-page diatribe online before the shooting, which laid out his motives and showed the meticulous planning that went into the massacre. He said he subscribed to a “great replacement” theory, or the false belief that White Americans are being “replaced” by people of other races. Once a fringe idea, replacement theory has recently become a talking point for Fox News’ host Tucker Carlson, as well as other prominent conservatives.

"A hate that through the media and politics, the internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced. That's the word, replaced by the other, by people who don't look like them. And who are, therefore, in a perverse ideology that they possess and being fed, lesser beings. ... I call on all Americans to reject the lie, and I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit," Biden said.

Biden also referenced the 2017 Charlottesville rally, where White nationalists carrying tiki torches chanted "you will not replace us."

"We've seen the mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina; El Paso, Texas; in Pittsburgh, last year in Atlanta, this week in Dallas, Texas, and now in Buffalo. In Buffalo, New York. White supremacy is a poison. It's a poison — it really is — running through our body politic. And it's been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes. No more. I mean, no more. We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of White supremacy has no place in America," Biden said.

Biden made broad but brief calls on Congress for change, including an assault weapons ban and efforts to address “relentless exploitation of the internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism.”

“We just need to have the courage to do that and stand up,” he said.

Danger and hate, he warned, are “being given too much oxygen by those who pretend to love America.”

But, Biden said, the views of those committing hateful attacks “represent a hateful minority.”

“We have to refuse to live in a country where people going about a weekly grocery shopping can be gunned down by weapons of war, deployed in a racist cause. We have to refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are packaged for power and for profit,” he said.

CNN's Betsy Klein contributed reporting to this post.

Watch:

12:52 p.m. ET, May 17, 2022

Biden: In America, "hate will not prevail and White supremacy will not have the last word"

(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

As President Biden said that despite the racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, "hate will not prevail and White supremacy will not have the last word" in America.

The stories of the victims demonstrate "the bigger story of who we are as Americans — a great nation because we're good people," he said as he remembered them.

"Jill and I bring you this message from deep in our nation's soul — in America, evil will not win, I promise you. Hate will not prevail and White supremacy will not have the last word," he continued.

He acknowledged the number of mass shootings that have occurred in the United States and the racial motivations of the Buffalo mass shooting suspect.

The evil has "come to all too many places" and this time, it manifested in a "gunman who massacred innocent people in the name of hateful and perverse ideology, rooted in fear and racism. It's taken so much," he added.

12:51 p.m. ET, May 17, 2022

Biden to supermarket shooting victims' families: "We've come to grieve with you"

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Biden spoke after meeting with families of the supermarket shooting victims in Buffalo, New York, telling them he and first lady Jill Biden came to the city to "stand with you."

"Jill and I have come to stand with you. And to the families, we've come to grieve with you. It's not the same, but we know a little bit what it's like to lose a piece of your soul when you lose a son or daughter or husband or wife, mother or father. The feeling of having that — as I said to some of you when we talked privately — you feel like there's a black hole in your chest you're being sucked into, and you're suffocating, unable to breathe," he said.  

Biden talked a bit about each of the 10 who were killed in the racially motivated shooting, appearing to choke up when speaking about a man who was in the store to buy a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son.

11:18 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022

Supermarket shooting suspect did "reconnaissance" in Buffalo area in March, according to police

From CNN's Victor Blackwell, Amanda Watts, Eric Levenson and Travis Caldwell

People gather at the scene of the shooting at the Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo on Saturday.
People gather at the scene of the shooting at the Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo on Saturday. (Joshua Bessex/AP)

The 18-year-old White man accused of killing 10 people in a racist mass shooting Saturday at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, had visited the area in early March, police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Monday.

“We found some things that show that he was here in early March, and then again, we know he was here on Friday, basically doing reconnaissance on the area,” Gramaglia told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “He was in the store, both on Friday and Saturday.”

The suspect, who is from the town of Conklin, about 200 miles away, opened fire Saturday at the Tops Friendly Markets store in a predominantly Black neighborhood, shooting 13 people before surrendering to police.

The massacre follows other mass shootings in recent years in which authorities say a White supremacist suspect was motivated by racial hatred, including in El Paso, TexasCharleston, South Carolina, and as far as Norway and New Zealand.

The commissioner said he couldn’t comment on whether the suspect was at the store in March but in social media posts, the accused shooter revealed he had been to the store March 8 and spent months planning his attack.

The suspect, Payton S. Gendron, wrote in posts on Discord that were shared on the hate-filled online forum 4Chan that he went into the store at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. during his March visit. He wrote that on his way from his home in Broome County he got a speeding ticket.

Gendron noted in his post the activity taking place inside the market, like how many Black and White people were there. He also drew a map depicting the store aisles, pharmacy, bakery and exit points of the building.

Gendron wrote that as he did his last reconnaissance visit, he was approached by a “Black armed security guard” who said, “I’ve seen you go in and out… What are you doing?” The suspect wrote that he told the security guard that he is collecting “consensus data,” for which the security guard said he needed to talk to the manager.

“I asked for his name and he told me and I instantly forgot, then I said bye and thanks and walked back to my car,” Gendron wrote. “In hindsight that was a close call.”

In a post Gendron wrote March 10, he said “I’m going to have to kill that security guard at Tops I hope he doesn’t kill me or even hurt me instantly.”

He added that the attack would take place March 15 but he ended up postponing the date several times.

Gendron also considered attacking a church or an elementary school before settling on a supermarket, he wrote.

The information comes as investigators have dug into a 180-page diatribe posted online and attributed to the suspected gunman that lays out in detail his motives and plans for the attack.

10:26 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022

President Biden and first lady visit a memorial for Buffalo mass shooting victims

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited a memorial for the victims of the Buffalo mass shooting and laid flowers there.

This is one of several memorials outside the Tops Friendly Markets, the grocery store where a racially motivated mass shooting on Saturday left 10 people dead.