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By Steve Gorman and Moira Warburton
(Reuters) -An 18-year-old white gunman shot 10 people to death and wounded three others at a grocery store in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, before surrendering to authorities, who called it a hate crime and an act of "racially motivated violent extremism."
Authorities said the suspect, who was armed with an assault-style rifle and appeared to have acted alone, drove to Buffalo from his home in a New York county "hours away" to target the store in an attack he broadcast on the internet. Eleven of the 13 people struck by gunfire were Black, officials said.
The suspect, who was not immediately named by police, was heavily armed and dressed in tactical gear, including body armor, police said.
When confronted by officers in a vestibule of the store, the suspect held a gun to his own neck but they talked him into dropping the weapon and surrendering, Buffalo police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news briefing.
Gramaglia said the gunman shot and killed three people in the parking lot of the Tops Friendly Market before exchanging fire with a former police officer working as a security guard for the store, but the suspect was protected by his body armor.
The guard was one of the 10 people shot to death in the incident, the nine others all being customers. Three other employees of the store, part of a regional chain, were wounded but are expected to survive, authorities said.
Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau's Buffalo field office, said the attack would be investigated both as a hate crime and as an act of "racially motivated violent extremism" under federal law.
Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League said, "While details of the horrific shooting in Buffalo are still emerging, there are already strong indicators that the individual who allegedly carried out this attack was heavily influenced by white supremacist ideology, including the virulently anti-Semitic and racist 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory. Make no mistake: This is the same hateful anti-Semitic bile that inspired the shooters in Pittsburgh, Poway, El Paso and Charleston."
"This person was pure evil," Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said, his voice quaking with emotion. "It was a straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community."
The suspect was expected to make his first court appearance to face murder charges by day's end, officials said.
"This is a day of great pain for our community," Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown told reporters. "Many of us have been in and out of this supermarket many times. ... We cannot let this hateful person divide our community or our country."
Brown said he had received calls from the White House and New York's attorney general, Letitia James.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the "horrific shooting."
Biden "will continue to receive updates throughout the evening and tomorrow as further information develops. The president and the first lady are praying for those who have been lost and for their loved ones," Jean-Pierre added.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senior US senator from New York, said in a tweet: "We are standing with the people of Buffalo."
The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, also tweeted that she was monitoring the situation, and asked people in Buffalo to "avoid the area and follow guidance from law enforcement and local officials."Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the attack appeared to be the work of a violent white supremacist.
"We must pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, without delay," he wrote on Twitter.
Last month, a "sniper-type" shooter opened fire in an upscale Washington neighborhood, wounding four people before taking his own life.
Police suspected that graphic video of that shooting which circulated online shortly afterward was filmed by the shooter himself, but have not confirmed the authenticity or if it was live-streamed.
Despite recurring mass-casualty shootings and a nationwide wave of gun violence, multiple initiatives to reform gun regulations have failed in the US Congress, leaving states and localities to enact their own restrictions.
The United States suffered 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, up nearly 35 percent as compared to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest data.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Pete Schroeder and Moira Warburton in Washington; editing by Daniel Wallis)
- At least 10 dead in mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket ›
- 'Pure evil': 10 dead, 13 shot in Buffalo supermarket mass shooting ... ›
- Multiple people shot at Tops market in Buffalo; alleged shooter in ... ›
- At least 10 dead in mass shooting at Buffalo, New York, supermarket ... ›
- Buffalo, NY supermarket shooting: 10 killed at Tops Friendly Market ... ›
The right-wing freakout over peaceful protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices and chalk on the sidewalk in front of Republican senators’ homes, built around the seeming belief that any kind of protest at all is an act of violence, is actually a piece of classic right-wing projection. Conservatives assume that all protests feature intimidation and menace, bellicose threats, and acts of violence, because they themselves know no other way of protesting, as we’ve seen over the past five years and longer—especially on Jan. 6.
So it’s not surprising that the right-wing response to protests over the imminent demise of the Roe v. Wade ruling so far is riddled with white nationalist thugs turning up in the streets, and threats directed at Democratic judges. Ben Makuch at Vice reported this week on how far-right extremists are filling Telegram channels with calls for the assassination of federal judges, accompanied by doxxing information revealing their home addresses.
One Telegram channel features a roster of targets accompanied by an eye-grabbing graphic with an assault-style gun, complete with their photos, bios, and personal contact and address information, including two federal judges appointed with Democratic backgrounds: a Barack Obama appointee of color, and a Midwestern judge of Jewish ethnicity. Joining them on the roster are people like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, several bankers, and officials who served on a federal vaccine board.
According to Makuch, this particular channel has been repeatedly taken off Telegram, only to promptly reconstitute itself. Now in its fifth iteration, he reports that federal law enforcement is aware of the channel and is investigating the threats.
The anti-abortion right’s entire track record of protest, in fact, is brimming with case after case of violence and the politics of menace. Between 1977 and 2020, there have been 11 murders of health care providers, 26 attempted murders, 956 reported threats of harm and death, 624 stalking incidents, and four kidnappings, accompanied by 42 bombings, 194 arsons, 104 attempted arsons or bombings, and 667 bomb threats.
Meanwhile, right-wing pundits are frantically indulging in groundless claims of imminent left-wing violence: “Pro Abortion Advocates Are Becoming Violent After Supreme Court Leak,” read a Town Hall headline over a piece that documented some minor shoving incidents outside the Supreme Court building among the protesters there.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board speculated: “We hate to say this, but some abortion fanatic could decide to commit an act of violence to stop a 5-4 ruling. It’s an awful thought, but we live in fanatical times.”
A right-wing extremist was charged only three weeks ago in South Carolina with threatening federal judges, along with President Biden and Vice President Harris. The man—a 33-year-old inmate at the Department of Corrections and Proud Boy named Eric Rome—sent letters he claimed contained anthrax to the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and left threatening voicemails: “Our intent is war on the federal government and specifically the assassination of the feds Marxist leaders Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Rome said on a voicemail, citing a laundry list of offenses: “the theft of the last presidential election, promoting critical race theory in our schools, the vax mandate, and using Marxist media outlets, notably CNN, to brainwash our citizens,” according to the indictment.
In his most recent threat in March, Rome threatened two unnamed South Carolina federal judges with death by stabbing: “Vacate the benches and we may let you live,” he wrote. Rome’s February letter to the Portland courthouse claimed he was sending “weapons grade anthrax” as a protest for failing “to arrest and prosecute Black Lives Matter activists despite the riots, looting, assaults and many other crimes by BLM in your city against White Citizens. .... WHITE POWER!”
Federal judges faced more than 4,500 threats last year, according to U.S. Marshals Service, which noted that it is concerned about the rise of domestic extremism in America.
A guide prepared for law enforcement in anticipation of social turmoil over abortion notes that while anti-abortion extremists have engaged in an extended litany of violence, that has not been the case among abortion-rights defenders: “Pro-choice extremists have primarily used threats, harassment, and vandalism, but has not resulted in lethal violence.”
SITE Intelligence Group, which shares threat information with a host of law enforcement agencies, released a May 4 report detailing calls for violence targeted at people protesting the expected ruling.
“Users on far-right, pro-Trump forum ‘The Donald’ encouraged members to violently oppose pro-abortion protesters demonstrating against the leaked Supreme Court draft signaling an overturn of Roe v. Wade,” reads the bulletin. “Reacting to the headline ‘Violence Breaks out at Pro-Abortion Protest After Democrat Politicians Call to ‘Fight,’' users made threats and called for police to harm protesters.”
A May 5 bulletin detailed the response by white supremacists: “A neo-Nazi channel responding to the leaked Supreme Court draft signaling an overturn of Roe v. Wade posted a previously circulated pro-life graphic calling to ‘bomb’ reproductive healthcare clinics and to ‘kill’ pro-choice individuals,” the bulletin said.
SITE Intelligence Group chief Rita Katz told Politico that misogyny is common in these quarters: “For far-right extremists, the focus on Roe v. Wade isn’t simply about religion or conventional debates about ‘when life starts,’” she said. “It’s about the toxic resentment of feminism that unites the entire spectrum of these movements, from Neo-Nazis to QAnon.”
Shortly after the January 6 insurrection, the violent factions involved in it like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers began forming alliances with Christian nationalists focused on abortion and attacking Planned Parenthood clinics. Over the past year, it’s also become clear that white nationalists such as Nick Fuentes’ “Groyper army” and other violence-prone bigots have adopted extreme forms of Christian nationalism.
They clearly see the protests over the imminent Supreme Court ruling as prime opportunities for more violence targeting their most hated enemies: women.
A federal counterterrorism official involved in tracking potential threats related to the Supreme Court decision told Yahoo News that authorities fear the ruling will revive the attacks on both judges and providers.
“They had targets on their backs before, now it’s that much more,” said the official.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.