Witnesses Describe Horror of Buffalo Mass Shooting: 'I'll Have This in My Head for the Rest of My Life'

After the shooting, President Joe Biden condemned "hate-fueled domestic terrorism"

Flowers and candles lay outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Photo: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Witnesses recounted the horrific violence that took place Saturday at a Buffalo supermarket, where a gunman who was allegedly motivated by white supremacy killed 10 people and injured three others.

Shonnell Harris, who works at the Tops Friendly Markets at 1275 Jefferson Avenue, told the Buffalo News the store was packed because it was the weekend. She said the thought she heard about 70 shots, and saw the shooter, a white man wearing camouflage.

"He looked like he was in the Army," Harris said.

Jennifer Tookes told NBC News she was shopping with her cousin, who was in a different aisle, when she heard gunshots coming from the front of the store.

"He stopped, shot again. Stopped, and started shooting again," she said.

Tookes told the outlet that she ran, but the gunfire sounds got closer to her. "You could hear him coming toward the back of the store," she said. "I was just praying and trying to get out. That's all I could do."

Tookes ultimately escaped the store, but saw "three bodies laying outside in the parking lot."

Tookes went to her car to call her cousin, who had been hiding in the store's freezer waiting for the shooting to be over.

A police officer looks out a store window as authorities investigate a shooting at the supermarket, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
AP Photo/Joshua Bessex

"I'll have this in my head for the rest of my life," Tookes told NBC. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to go into a grocery store or a store."

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Dominique Calhoun had planned to treat her two daughters to ice cream. She drove into the Tops parking lot when she saw people running out of the store screaming, reports The New York Times.

"That literally could've been me," Calhoun said. "I'm just in shock. I've never had something like this happen so close to home."

Hate Crime Targeting Black People

The suspect in the shooting, which took place at about 2:30 p.m., has been identified as Payton S. Gendron, 18, of Conklin, N.Y., which is about 200 miles southeast of Buffalo. He is charged with one count of first-degree murder, and has pleaded not guilty, The New York Times reports.

Officials have described the attack as a racially motivated hate crime that targeted Black people, noting that the supermarket is in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said at a Saturday afternoon press conference there were "certain pieces of evidence" he said indicated the crime was motivated by racism, but he did not elaborate on what that evidence was, reports CNN.

Flynn said at a Saturday evening press conference that authorities are investigating terrorism charges.

According to Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, 11 of the 13 victims — including non-fatal victims — were Black, CNN reports. At a Saturday press conference, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said, "It was, straight up, a racially motivated hate crime." He added: "This person was pure evil."

According to a statement from Flynn's office, the suspect, who was wearing tactical gear including a helmet, shot four people in the store's parking lot, and nine people inside the store. The three victims who were not killed suffered what Gramaglia said were "non-life-threatening" injuries.

Officials have said the suspect livestreamed the shooting.

People hug outside the scene after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
AP Photo/Joshua Bessex

Buffalo police who responded to the scene engaged the suspect, who eventually put a gun to his own neck before officers convinced him to drop the weapon, Gramaglia said at the press conference. At that point, the suspect was taken into custody.

In a statement following the shooting, President Joe Biden condemned "hate-fueled domestic terrorism."

"We still need to learn more about the motivation for today's shooting as law enforcement does its work, but we don't need anything else to state a clear moral truth: A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation," the statement said. "Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America. Hate must have no safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism."

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