BUFFALO, Feb 15 On Wednesday, an openly white supremacist was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole during a tumultuous and emotional hearing. Prior to the sentencing, the man apologized to the families of the ten Black people he had fatally shot the previous year at a grocery store in western New York. The shooting took place last year.
Payton Gendron had pleaded guilty to 15 state crimes, including murder and terrorism motivated by hatred, coming from the mass shooting that occurred on May 14 in Buffalo, which is a city with around 277,000 inhabitants. Towards one point, a guy in the courtroom lunged at Payton Gendron. At the hearing, thirteen people who were related to the victims gave statements. Among them was Simone Crawley, who referred to Gendron, 19, as a “cowardly racist.”
Erie County Court Judge Susan Eagan gave the sentence, which was expected because the state does not have the death penalty.
Gendron apologized to the families of his victims, whose ages ranged from 20 to 86, while wearing an orange jumpsuit and glasses. He said he was sorry for what he did and hoped that his crime would not inspire others to do the same thing.
The shooting spree was one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent years. It happened in a country that is used to these kinds of crimes and where racial tensions are still high.
“I am very sorry for all of the pain I forced all of the victims and their families to suffer through,” said Gendron, who was standing and looking downward while speaking. “I did a terrible thing that day. I shot and killed people because they were Black.”
Authorities said Gendron posted live video of the attack on social media after he had posted a racist rant online about how other racially motivated mass killings had inspired him.
After Gendron finished his statement, a woman in the courtroom screamed in a painful way.
An unidentified man lunged at Gendron, who was sitting at a table in the courtroom with his lawyers while a woman named Barbara Massey Mapps made an emotional speech. This briefly stopped the hearing. Katherine Massey, who was 72 years old, was one of the people who died.
The man pushed Massey Mapps out of the way and ran toward Gendron for a few steps before police and lawyers stopped him and led him away. Gendron was grabbed by police officers and rushed out of the courtroom.
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Ruth Whitfield, Crawley’s grandmother, who was 86 years old, was killed. Crawley said that Gendron made his victims famous instead of getting people to support his hateful cause. Authorities say Gendron spread the racist conspiracy theory that people of color are replacing white people in America and other places.
“We as a people are unbreakable,” Crawley said.
“I don’t wish the death penalty on you,” said Wayne Jones, whose 65-year-old mother Celestine Chaney was gunned down. “I wish they keep you alive so you have to suffer with the thought of what you did for the rest of your life.”
Even though New York no longer has the death penalty, Gendron could still get it if he is found guilty of the federal hate crime and gun charges he is facing. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges. Gendron was 18 years old when the attack happened.
Both the district attorney for Erie County, John Flynn, and the mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, said that Gendron’s apology wasn’t enough and came too late.
“I anticipate what he said today was to save his life in federal court,” Flynn said after the hearing.
Gendron’s defense attorney, Brian Parker, told a news conference that his client was remorseful.
“We hope that knowing he will never be free again will offer some small bit of comfort to those he has hurt so much,” Parker said.
Prosecutors say the gunman went to a Tops Friendly Markets in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, about 200 miles (320 km) from his home in Conklin, New York, with the intention of killing as many Black people as he could with an assault weapon. In addition to the 10 people who were killed, three others were also hurt.
Gendron is facing 27 federal charges. In order to avoid a possible death sentence, his lawyers have tried to reach a deal with the prosecutors. The U.S. Justice Department hasn’t said what kind of punishment it wants Gendron to get if he is found guilty.
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