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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks Announcing Accused Tops Shooter Charged with Federal Hate Crimes and Using a Firearm to Commit Murder


Buffalo, NY
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Good morning, everyone.

I am joined today by United States Attorney for the Western District of New York Trini Ross, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, and Deputy Director of the FBI Paul Abbate.

On May 14, a horrific attack targeted the Black community of Buffalo. On that day, I said that the Justice Department is investigating this matter as a hate crime and as an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.

Today, I met with the loved ones of the victims and survivors of that attack.

And I told them that the Justice Department has just filed a complaint against the individual we allege committed this heinous crime – which killed 10 people, all of whom were Black, and wounded three others.

The complaint we have filed today charges Payton Gendron with 10 counts of committing a hate crime resulting in death; three counts of committing a hate crime involving an attempt to kill; 10 counts of using a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence; and three counts of using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

The affidavit in support of the complaint quotes the defendant as stating that his goal was to “kill as many blacks as possible.” 

The affidavit outlines how the defendant prepared for months to carry out this attack.

It alleges that:

  • he selected a target in this zip code because it has the highest percentage of Black people close enough to where he lives;
  • he selected the Tops store because it is where a high percentage and high density of Black people can be found; and
  • he made a map of the inside of the Tops store “and decided the best plan of attack for [the] highest chance of success.”

The affidavit also notes that the defendant chronicled this plan on his Discord messaging account in the months leading up to the attack. 

Citing that account, the affidavit alleges that the defendant wrote about his acquisition of firearms and other supplies for the attack, and traveled to Tops on multiple occasions to sketch the interior of the store, count the number of Black people present, and observe the presence of Black security guards.

On May 14, the defendant arrived at Tops wearing a tactical-style helmet, camouflage clothing, body armor, and a GoPro video camera, and carrying a loaded Bushmaster XM-15 rifle and multiple loaded magazines.

The affidavit alleges that he repeatedly targeted, shot, and killed Black people. At one point, he aimed his rifle at a white male Tops employee, who had been shot in the leg and injured. Instead of shooting the white employee, the gunman apologized to him before continuing his attack.

Ballistics evidence recovered at Tops indicated that the gunman fired approximately 60 shots during the attack.

In the days and weeks since the attack, we have all witnessed the strength of this community’s bonds, its resilience, and its love. I am humbled to have just felt that firsthand in my discussions with the families.

Hate-fueled acts of violence terrorize not only the individuals who are all attacked, but entire communities.

Hate brings immediate devastation, and it inflicts lasting fear.

At the Justice Department, we view confronting hate crimes as both our legal and our moral obligation.

The Justice Department was founded more than 150 years ago with the first principal task of protecting Black Americans – and our democracy – from white supremacist violence.

Today, we approach that task with the same degree of urgency as we did then.

We fully recognize the threat that hatred and violent extremism pose to the safety of the American people and American democracy.

We will be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.

No one in this country should have to live in fear that they will go to work or shop at the grocery store, and they will be attacked by someone who hates them because of the color of their skin, someone who commits that act because he subscribes to the vile theory that only people like him belong in this country.

And no one in this country should have to bury a loved one because of such hate.

The Justice Department will never stop working to fulfill our duty to protect the American people from hate-fueled violence.

Indeed, it is the duty of every American to stand against such hate.

I am now pleased to turn the podium over to U.S. Attorney Trini Ross, and I will return afterward for a few questions.

Hate Crimes
Updated June 15, 2022