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Grocery store evidence, digital trail, mental health: updates on mass shooting investigation

Police have repeatedly said, based on evidence online discussing a white supremacist theory, that this was a hate-filled crime that could have been far worse.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia revealed new information Monday about the suspect who previously was only believed to have visited the Tops location on Jefferson Avenue the day before Saturday's tragedy.

New evidence Gramaglia said showed that the suspect 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron had in fact visited the store in March. The commissioner did not elaborate on how investigators obtained the info.

The Tops store and surrounding area remained on lockdown two days after what police have said was a hate-fueled and pre-planned attack.

Gramaglia and FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Belongia offered insight on how the police investigation was progressing and revealed that there was also evidence that the suspect planned to continue his alleged carnage if he was not stopped and did not surrender to police. 

"The scene is still being processed, search warrants have been obtained and executed and they will still be obtained," said Gramaglia.

"This process is painstaking it takes time and we will continue as quickly possible to process this scene and return to back to this community which relies on it so much," Special Agent in Charge Belongia added.

The FBI lab at Quantico has provided specialized tools and advanced teams to assist in the Buffalo investigation. 

The hate manifested Saturday is just the most recent example of a trend across the U.S. In 2020 more than half the victims of hate crimes based on race were black, a 49% increase according to FBI Hate Crime Statistics.

"People who want to bring us hate and expect to assume that hate because that's what they have. It's not going to happen here," Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who represents the East Side of Buffalo said.

On top of combing through the suspect's home in Broome County, over 200 miles from the store he's accused of choosing as his target, Commissioner Gramaglia added that a large "digital footprint" will be looked at.

That includes chat forums such as 4chan and Reddit where an alleged manifesto quickly spread online over the weekend. It featured a white supremacist belief that non-white people will replace white people and included what appeared to be a detailed map of the Tops store on Jefferson Avenue.

"It's not enough to send money if we don't stand up against racism, against those who feel white supremacy as a system is okay. So I've been encouraging people all day long, tell the truth, that this is not the only racist and not the only white supremacist believer," said Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn made what he called an exception appearance Monday, given that Gendron is expected in court on Thursday and Flynn's office is prosecuting the felony case.

The DA revealed that the suspect’s defense attorney had withdrawn a request to have his client seen by a doctor, making the mental health question that can linger with these cases "a moot point" Flynn said.

For the 10 victim's families, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz added that autopsies should be ready by Wednesday so the family members of those killed can proceed with funeral or other arrangements.

If more information is needed Poloncarz advised contacting the Erie County Medical Examiners' office.

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