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Justice Department Will Seek Death Penalty for Buffalo Supermarket Shooter

Payton Gendron is currently serving life in prison for the May 2022 attack

Justice Department Will Seek Death Penalty for Buffalo Supermarket Shooter

The Department of Justice will seek the death penalty for hate crime charges brought against Payton Gendron for his role in the Tops Supermarket shooting in May of 2022.

Ten people died during the shooting in Buffalo, New York. The Justice Department charged Grendon in June of 2022 with 10 counts of a hate crime resulting in death, three counts of a hate crime involving bodily injury and attempt to kill, 10 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence, and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. 

In its latest filing, the Justice Department said the “United States believes the circumstances in Counts 11-20 of the Indictment are such that, in the event of a conviction, a sentence of death is justified,” per ABC News.

The federal government argues Payton intended to inflict bodily harm and expressed racist sentiments prior to the attack.

"Payton Gendron expressed bias, hatred, and contempt toward Black persons and his animus toward Black persons played a role," the filing said.

Gendron, who was 18 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to murder charges brought against him by the state of New York. He is currently serving life in prison without parole. His defense team denounced the federal government’s pursuit of the death penalty.

He was indicted on federal hate crime charges in July of 2022.

“The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in a press release. “We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.”

“Rather than a prolonged and traumatic capital prosecution, the efforts of the federal government would be better spent on combating the forces that facilitated this terrible crime,” they said in a statement, per The Washington Post

Assistant federal defender Sonya Zoghlin suggested the federal government should be focused on “combatting the forces that facilitated this terrible crime, including easy access to deadly weapons and the failure of social media companies to moderate the hateful rhetoric and images that circulate online.”

During his sentencing in February of 2023, Gendron expressed remorse for his actions and the pain he caused the victims and their families. 

I'm very sorry for stealing the lives of your loved ones,” he said while speaking in the courtroom, per Fox News. “I did a terrible thing that day. I shot and killed people because they were Black. Looking back now, I can't believe I actually did it.”

“I believed what I read online and acted out of hate,” he continued. “I know I can't take it back. But I wish I could. And I don't want anyone to be inspired by me and what I did.”

The next court date in the federal case is Feb. 2.

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