A shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York on Saturday has left at least ten people dead and three others injured in what police are investigating as a hate crime and “racially motivated violent extremism”.
An 18-year-old man has been taken into custody following the attack, which took place at the TOPS Friendly Markets, the Buffalo police department said.
Local officials said the suspect had driven “many hours” to Buffalo from another county in New York state, armed with an assault rifle and wearing tactical gear and a camera with which he livestreamed the shooting.
Erie County sheriff John Garcia described the shooting as “pure evil” and “straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community”.
Police said they had evidence showing that there was a racial component to the shooting, without elaborating. Eleven of the victims were black and two were white. They would not comment on reports that the alleged shooter had posted a racist manifesto online before the attack.
The shooting spree began at around 2:30pm eastern time when the suspect allegedly shot four people in the TOPS parking lot, killing three, Buffalo police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters.
Once inside, he was shot in the chest by the store’s security guard, a retired Buffalo police officer, but the bullet struck the gunman’s armoured vest. He returned fire and killed the security guard, Gramaglia said.
Gramaglia described the injuries sustained by three people as “non-life threatening”.
Local police said they would charge the suspect with first-degree murder which carries a life sentence without parole. But the FBI said it was also investigating the case as a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism.
“This is the worst nightmare that any community can face. And we are hurting and we are seething right now as a community,” Buffalo mayor Byron Brown told a news conference. “The depths of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.”
“I am prayerful that this will not exacerbate racial tensions,” Brown said.
Trini Ross, the US attorney for the western district of New York, said her office was also treating the incident as violent extremism and a hate crime: “I am hopeful that this will bring us together…..not tear us apart,” she told reporters.
New York governor Kathy Hochul said she was “closely monitoring the shooting” and that her administration had offered assistance to local officials.
The incident was the 198th mass shooting in the US so far this year which have collectively claimed the lives of 210 people, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks mass killings.