Justice Department seeks Death Penalty for Payton Gendron, Convicted for Buffalo, NY Mass Murder in May, 2022

“It was going to happen.” After decades of systemic racism, inequality and neglect, East Buffalo residents say the Tops supermarket shooting, in the predominantly Black neighborhood, was no shock. (ABC)

The Justice Department is pursuing the death penalty in a rather rare move. According to ABC New York does not allow the Death Penalty, and re: the Federal Death Penalty, “Lawyers for Gendron previously said he would consider pleading guilty to the federal charges if the death penalty was taken off the table.

A federal grand jury returned a 27-count indictment against Gendron in July 2022 charging him with 14 violations of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act: “10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill three injured individuals, and one hate crimes count alleging that Gendron attempted to kill additional Black people in and around the Tops grocery store,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice. He was also charged with 13 firearms offenses.

Gendron was motivated by a racist, far-right conspiracy known as replacement theory and he wanted to “inspire others to commit similar attacks,” according to a criminal complaint. Markings on the rifle used in the shooting included the phrases “here’s your reparations” and “the great replacement,” the complaint said.

ABC adds that Federal prosecutors outlined the reasons why they believe a death sentence is warranted in their filing, saying, “Gendron intentionally killed Roberta Drury, Pearl Young, Hayward Patterson, Ruth Whitfield, Celestine Chaney, Aaron W Salter Jr., Andre Mackniel, Marcus Morrison, Katherine Massey and Geraldine Talley.” The Justice Department also cited Gendron’s intentional infliction of bodily injury, intentional participation in an act resulting in death and the blatant racism associated with the shooting. “Payton Gendron expressed bias, hatred, and contempt toward Black persons and his animus toward Black persons played a role,” the filing said.

Family letters and testimony were also a factor in the sentencing decision with one relative stating the death penalty was in effect letting Gendron off the hook.