Prosecutors on Thursday (June 16) presented evidence at the first federal court appearance of the accused white supremacist charged with hate crimes for gunning down 10 Black people last month in Buffalo.
“[Payton] Gendron's motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks," CNN quotes the complaint. Gendron, 18, did not enter a plea.
FBI agents discovered a handwritten apology note written by Gendron while searching the alleged gunman’s bedroom in his parents’ Upstate New York home, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal complaint.
But the apology was to his family. It said he "had to commit this attack" because he cared "for the future of the White race."
At the court hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. assigned a federal public defender to Gendron after assessing his ability to afford a lawyer.
On Wednesday (June 15), federal prosecutors filed charges against Gendron, which included 26 hate-crime counts and a firearm offense. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
According to the Buffalo Police Department, Gendron entered the Tops Friendly Markets store on May 14 with a military-style assault rifle and opened fire. The Conklin, N.Y. resident allegedly researched the local demographics and chose that supermarket to kill as many Black people as possible. In total, he shot 11 Black people and two whites who survived the attack.
Gendron allegedly espoused the “Great Replacement” theory, which is a false belief that a secret political group is working to replace white Americans with non-white people through interracial marriage, immigration, and inevitable violence.
In addition to Gendron’s handwritten note, investigators discovered a candy bar receipt that indicated he went to the Tops Friendly Market on March 8, which prosecutors allege was one of three visits to the supermarket. He sketched the store’s layout and counted the number of Black people from each visit.
Family members of the slain victims attended the hearing and sat in a section set aside for them.
"This is very difficult -- laying eyes on the person who shot your mother down in the grocery store," Raymond Whitfield told CNN before the hearing.
Whitfield’s 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, was a grandmother and the caregiver for her husband, She was gunned down at the supermarket after returning from a nursing home to visit him.
“She was a blessing to all of us," said her son, retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield, told the Buffalo News after the shooting. "She loved God and taught us to do the same thing."