BUFFALO, New York — A white supremacist is to be sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for killing 10 black people at a Buffalo supermarket in an attack fueled by racist conspiracy theories he encountered online.
Payton Hendron is scheduled to appear in court in Erie County, where he is pleaded guilty in November on charges including murder and domestic hate-motivated terrorism. The terrorism charge carries an automatic life sentence.
Relatives of several victims are expected to speak during the hearing, giving them a chance to address the judge and the killer responsible for their grief.
Gendron, now 19, was wearing bulletproof armor and a helmet equipped with a live camera when he carried out the May 14 attack. He killed his victims with a semi-automatic rifle, purchased legally but then modified so he could load it with high-capacity magazines, which is prohibited in New York.
After he shot 13 people, specifically targeting black shoppers and workers, only three survived.
His victims at the Tops Friendly Market included a church deacon, a grocery store security guard, a neighborhood activist, a man buying a birthday cake, a grandmother of nine and the mother of a former Buffalo fire chief. The dead were between 32 and 86 years old.
In documents released online, Gendron said he hoped the attack would help preserve white supremacy in the United States. He wrote that he chose the Tops grocery store, about a three-hour drive from his home in Conklin, New York, because it was in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
Although Hendran faces a guaranteed life sentence, he also faces separate federal charges that could carry the death penalty if the Justice Department chooses to pursue it.
Gendron’s guilty plea to the state charges is seen as potentially helping him avoid the death penalty in the penalty phase of any federal trial. At a December hearing, defense attorney Sonia Zoglin said Hendron was willing to plead guilty in federal court in exchange for life in prison.
A mass shooting in Buffalo and another less than two weeks later that left 19 students and two teachers dead at a Texas elementary school have fueled calls for stronger gun control, including from victims’ relatives who traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before lawmakers.
New York lawmakers quickly passed a law banning the sale of semi-automatic rifles to most people under the age of 21. The state also banned the sale of certain types of body armor.
In June, President Joe Biden signed a compromise gun violence bill that would tighten background checks, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders and help states implement red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take guns away from people found dangerous.
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