The white supremacist accused of murdering 10 Black people in a mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store apologised to a white victim and spared his life before hunting for more Black victims to kill, federal prosecutors have revealed.
During the 14 May massacre at the Tops Friendly Market, accused gunman Payton Gendron turned and aimed his assault rifle at a white male store employee who had already been shot in the leg and injured during the attack, according to a criminal complaint filed on Wednesday.
But instead of shooting and killing the white man, the 18-year-old gunman said “sorry” to him and left him alone.
Prosecutors said the suspect then carried on “moving on through the rest of the store in search of more Black people to shoot and kill”.
He shot dead four more Black people after that moment, according to the criminal complaint.
Footage of the shocking moment when the gunman appeared to prove his racist motive for the attack had circulated on social media in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
Mr Gendron had livestreamed part of his attack online using a GoPro attached to his tactical helmet after sharing his plans to carry out the racist attack in a detailed online manifesto.
In a clip of the livestream, the gunman was seen pointing his firearm at the victim as he cowered on the ground between two checkouts screaming and covering his face.
The shooter then shouted “sorry” and lowered his weapon, before moving on throughout the store.
The horrifying new details confirming the encounter reveal how the suspect allegedly sought out victims based on the colour of their skin as part of his plans to “kill as many Blacks as possible”.
In total, 13 people were shot in the massacre, 10 of them fatally.
All 10 victims killed were Black as well as an 11th surviving victim who was shot outside the store.
The surviving Black victim was the second person shot in the attack, with prosecutors detailing how they had managed to survive by fleeing the scene after the gunman entered the store.
A second white victim – a female Tops employee who was in the pharmacy area of the store – was also struck by a bullet during the rampage but survived.
The gunman fired around 60 shots in total during the attack.
The chilling new details were revealed in court documents on Wednesday as the Justice Department charged Mr Gendron with federal hate crimes over last month’s mass shooting.
The 18-year-old was slapped with 26 charges in total including: 10 counts of hate crime resulting in death, three counts involving bodily injury and attempt to kill, 10 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder and in retaliation to a crime of violence and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in retaliation to a crime of violence.
Prosecutors said the hate crime charges were brought because “Gendron’s motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks”.
If convicted, he faces the death penalty or life in prison.
According to prosecutors, on Saturday 14 May, Mr Gendron drove from his home in Conklin, New York, to the Tops Friendly Market grocery store at around 2.30pm.
Dressed in tactical gear and armed with a semi-automatic rifle, he opened fire outside the store first before moving through the store aisles shooting more victims.
In a self-described manifesto posted online, Mr Gendron detailed his plans to shoot and kill Black people at the Tops grocery as a “white man seeking to protect and serve my community, my people, my culture, and my race”, according to prosecutors.
He said that he had been planning the attack for a few years but “actually got serious” about it in the beginning of January 2022.
Mr Gendron wrote that he specifically targeted the Buffalo area because of its highest percentage of Black people as his goal was to “kill as many blacks as possible”, prosecutors said.
In the manifesto, the 18-year-old also called himself a racist, white supremacist and antisemite and detailed how he had been inspired by other white supremacist mass shooters to carry out the attack.
He also cited the debunked “great replacement theory” which has repeatedly been echoed by right-wing personalities such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson – an extremist conspiracy theory that falsely claims there is a plot to diminish the influence of white people.
Mr Gendron also left a chilling handwritten note for his family where he apologised to them for committing “this attack” but told them he was carrying out the massacre“for the future of the white race”, according to the criminal complaint.
Following Mr Gendron’s arrest, he then made “disturbing statements” about his motive, making clear that he was “filled with hate toward the Black community” and was targeting Black people, officials have said previously.
Racist slurs and the names of others who have committed mass shootings were scrawled on the assualt rifle used in the attack, along with the phrases “Here’s your reparations!” and “The Great Replacement”, prosecutors said.
Leading up to the attack, the suspect visited the grocery store to scout the location on several occasions.
His last time scouting out the store came at around midday on the day of the attack when he “observed a “healthy amount of old and young” Black people in the store and noted where the security guard was positioned”, prosecutors said.
Two-and-a-half hours later, he returned to carry out the mass shooting.
The federal charges come the same day that Attorney General Merrick Garland is travelling to Buffalo to visit the site of the mass shooting and meet with victims’ family members and survivors of the attack.
In the days after the massacre, Mr Garland had vowed to “relentlessly” investigate the mass shooting as a hate crime and racially-motivated violent extremism.
The federal charges come on top of 25 state charges against the suspected gunman including 10 counts of first-degree murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree earlier this month.
The state terrorism charge came into law in the state in November 2020 and Mr Gendron is the first person to ever be charged with it.
The mass shooting in Buffalo came just 10 days before 21 people – 19 students aged nine to 11 years old and two teachers – were shot and killed at a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on 24 May.
Gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, also used a semi-automatic rifle in that attack.
Last week, victims’ families and survivors of the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings testified before the House Oversight Committee where they urged Congress to tighten gun regulations to stop more families from being torn apart by gun violence.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of senators said they had reached a deal on a package of narrow gun safety measures.
The deal includes expanding background checks for people aged 18 to 21 and more money for school safety and mental health resources.
It does not include a ban on assault weapons like many are calling for, after high capacity rifles were used in the recent attacks to kill multiple people.