San Francisco Chronicle
Gunman gets life in prison for racist massacre of 10 in Buffalo
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The gunman in a racist massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., last year was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on Wednesday, after apologizing for his attack amid a torrent of raw emotions from the victims' families, including one man who lunged at him in court.
“You will never see the light of day as a free man again,” the judge, Susan Eagan, said after reading a statement about the harmful effects of institutional racism and white supremacy, calling it an “insidious cancer on our society and nation.”
The sentence reflected the outcome of a guilty plea to 10 counts of first-degree murder and a single count of domestic terrorism motivated by hate, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment without parole. He was the first person in New York convicted of that domestic terrorism charge.
Eagan's sentence came after a brief apology by the gunman, Payton Gendron, 19, who said he was “very sorry” for the attack and blamed online content for the shooting rampage on May 14, in which 10 people were killed, all of them Black, and three people injured. He said he didn't want to inspire other racist killings.
“I shot and killed people because they were Black,” he said. “Looking back now, I can't believe I actually did.”
As Gendron spoke, a member of the audience began screaming and cursing at him, the second such interruption in an emotionally raw hearing.
Earlier, the sentencing was dramatically interrupted and the courtroom cleared after a man lunged at the defendant.
Before Gendron heard his sentence, families of the victims testified as to the insurmountable damage done by the attack.
“You are a cowardly racist,” said Simone Crawley, whose grandmother, Ruth Whitfield, 86, was killed in the shooting.
She asked for accountability for others who aided or turned a blind eye to Gendron's growing radicalization.
“You recorded the last moments of our loved ones' lives to garner support for your hateful cause, but you immortalized them instead,” Crawley continued. “We are extremely aware that you are not a lone wolf but a part of a larger organized network of domestic terrorists. And to that network, we say we, as a people, are unbreakable.”
Gendron pleaded guilty in November to the state charges, which included gun and attempted murder charges. He is also charged with federal hate crimes and weapons violations, some of which could carry the death penalty if the Justice Department decided to seek it. Those charges are still pending.
Gendron, an avowed white supremacist, live-streamed the attack and specifically chose the Tops market in east Buffalo — some 200 miles from his home in Conklin, N.Y. — because it had a large Black clientele.