The 19-year-old white man accused of fatally shooting 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty Monday morning to more than a dozen related state charges.
Payton Gendron pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder, as well as charges of domestic terrorism motived by hate, attempted murder as a hate crime and criminal weapon possession.
Gendron carried out the racist massacre with a semi-automatic rifle in a matter of minutes at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14. He also wounded three others in the attack.
Gendron, who was handcuffed and wore an orange jumpsuit Monday, showed little emotion through the 45-minute proceeding, only occasionally licking and clenching his lips, according to The Associated Press. He answered "yes" and "guilty" as the judge referred to each victim by name and asked whether Gendron killed each victim because of their race.
"While we may never fully heal from the horrific crime and the loss of life that occurred on May 14th, I hope that the families of the victims and the survivors feel that justice has been served by this defendant pleading guilty today," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in a statement. "Our office will request that the Court impose the maximum sentence."
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Gendron faces a penalty of life without parole. He also is facing federal hate crime charges that could carry the death penalty. The U.S. Justice Department has not said whether it will seek capital punishment.
Gendron was 18 at the time of the homicides. He was armed with a semi-automatic AR-15 and livestreamed the terrifying assault, a video that has continued to survive in corners of the web despite continued efforts to purge it, federal and state prosecutors say.
Gendron allegedly targeted the predominantly Black neighborhood, killing Black people who were regulars at the supermarket. Among those slain were a retired Buffalo policeman and a community activist long known as a pillar of the community.
Many of the victims' relatives watched the hearing Monday, The Associated Press reported. Several spoke to reporters later and said the plea doesn't address the bigger problem of racism in America.
"His voice made me feel sick, but it showed me I was right," said Zeneta Everhart, whose 20-year-old son was shot in the neck but survived. "This country has a problem. This country is inherently violent. It is racist. And his voice showed that to me."
After the hearing, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia called for a ban on assault weapons. Some relatives reiterated their calls for Congress and the FBI to address white supremacy and gun violence.
"We are literally begging for those in power to do something about it," said Garnell Whitfield, whose 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, was killed.
Gendron’s lawyer, Brian Parker, called the plea a "critical step" that "represents a condemnation of the racist ideology that fueled his horrific actions on May 14."
"It is our hope that a final resolution of the state charges will help in some small way to keep the focus on the needs of the victims and the community," Parker said.
Buffalo attorney John Elmore, who represents two families of victims, said Gendron is "not the only person responsible for what happened."
"He was radicalized into becoming a mass shooter with racial supremacy motives," Elmore said.
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Gendron viewed videos of other racist and ethnic-based mass killings, and communicated with like-minded bigots on the web before the killings, according to court records.
"He was radicalized by irresponsible social media platforms," Elmore said. He said the families are also considering litigation surrounding the sale and manufacturing of the firearm used by Gendron and the body armor he wore.
The guilty plea comes amid a series of mass shootings in the U.S. Earlier this month, three students at the University of Virginia were fatally shot. Days later, a gunman attacked Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring more than a dozen others. Last week, a man fatally shot six people and wounded multiple others at a Walmart in Virginia.
Contributing: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron pleads guilty in Tops mass shooting