The white gunman who killed 10 people in May in a racially targeted attack on a supermarket in a largely Black neighborhood pleaded guilty to murder and hate crime charges Monday.
Payton Gendron, 19, pleaded guilty to one count of domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate, 10 counts of first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Gendron still faces a heap of federal charges, with some of them carrying the death penalty.
At a press conference following Monday’s hearing, national civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said the families are demanding the most “harsh” sentence Gendron can receive.
“It was just gut-wrenching and it made you angry over again to hear how this young white supremacist just so horrendously killed those innocent people,” Crump said, joined by victims’ family members at the Buffalo offices of attorney Terrence Connors.
Connors, who is also representing family members, said his “heart bleeds” for them every time they meet and speak with each other. Connors said they are aiming for full justice and accountability while they also await the outcome of Gendron’s federal charges.
“They want us to hold people accountable, get them answers, and we are going to do that,” Connors said.
Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Zaire Goodman, who was wounded but survived the shooting, said it was difficult for her to see and hear Gendron speak during the hearing.
Everhart said she noticed that Gendron was “cleaned up” with a haircut to look presentable in court. His presence did not sit well with her, she told reporters at the press conference.
“That is how America treats young white men. They want to show him in a way that is not threatening. If that was my son, Zaire, there would have been pictures of him in a hoodie,” Everhart said.
Months before the shooting, police say, Gendron wrote a racist manifesto detailing his plot to kill Black people at the store, and included a diagram of the market and the clothes and weapons he would wear and use.
Gendron also wrote that he selected his target because the neighborhood was the most highly concentrated area of Black people closest to him, and the Tops store was a place residents in the community frequented often.
Gendron reportedly livestreamed the shooting on the internet and was wearing a tactical-style helmet, camouflage clothing, body armor and a GoPro video camera. Gendron used a loaded Bushmaster XM-15 .223-caliber rifle and multiple loaded magazines.
Authorities said Gendron’s motive was to prevent Black people from replacing whites and eliminating the white race. He also sought to inspire others to commit the same attack, they said.
Gendron’s sentencing is set for Feb. 15.