Attorneys considering psychiatric defense for teen suspect in Buffalo mass shooting

·4 min read
Attorneys considering psychiatric defense for teen suspect in Buffalo mass shooting

Defense attorneys for the white teenager charged with killing 10 Black people in a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in what prosecutors described as a racially motivated mass shooting are considering a psychiatric defense.

During a status hearing for 18-year-old Payton Gendron Thursday afternoon in Erie County Court in Buffalo, the defense requested an extension to complete a psychiatric evaluation, according to ABC News Buffalo affiliate WKBW.

The suspect's attorney said they are not sure if that defense will be used but want time to complete an evaluation, WKBW reported.

Judge Susan Eagan gave the defense 90 days to file a notice of a psychiatric defense, according to WKBW. She also denied another motion by the defense seeking to delay the state prosecution for one year while a separate federal case proceeds, WKBW reported.

Gendron is next scheduled to appear in Erie County Court on Oct. 6. He previously pleaded not guilty to a 25-count indictment, including 10 first-degree murder charges and three attempted murder charges stemming from the May massacre at a Tops market.

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The teen is the first person in New York history to face a charge of domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree, a crime enacted in the state in November 2020. If found guilty of that charge, Gendron faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said during a news conference last month.

Gendron is also charged with 10 counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime, three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime and one count of criminal possession of a weapon.

PHOTO: Buffalo shooting suspect, Payton S. Gendron, appears in court accused of killing 10 people in a live-streamed supermarket shooting in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, May 19, 2022. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters, FILE)
PHOTO: Buffalo shooting suspect, Payton S. Gendron, appears in court accused of killing 10 people in a live-streamed supermarket shooting in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, May 19, 2022. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters, FILE)

The charges against Gendron reflect the white supremacist rhetoric and invective law enforcement sources told ABC News investigators was found on social media posts linked to the suspect, including a belief in the racist conspiracy theory known as replacement.

Gendron is accused of fatally shooting the six women and four men inside a Tops supermarket on May 14 "because of the perceived race and/or color" of the victims, according to the indictment. He also allegedly shot and wounded three people.

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Flynn noted last month that two of the three victims who survived the shooting are white, but that attempted murder charges with a hate crime enhancement were filed on behalf of all the wounded victims because of Gendron's "alleged intent."

PHOTO: A memorial to the dead in the Tops grocery store mass shooting is shown during a March For Our Lives event on June 11, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Matt Burkhartt/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A memorial to the dead in the Tops grocery store mass shooting is shown during a March For Our Lives event on June 11, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Matt Burkhartt/Getty Images)

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said last month that at one point during the attack, Gendron allegedly aimed his AR-15-style rifle at a white Tops employee, who was shot in the leg and injured. Garland alleged that Gendron apologized to the victim before continuing the attack.

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Investigators allege Gendron drove three hours from his home in Conklin, New York, and spent the day before the rampage conducting a final reconnaissance on the store before committing the mass shooting on a Saturday afternoon.

Authorities allege Gendron was wielding a Bushmaster XM rifle, dressed in military fatigues, body armor and was wearing a tactical helmet with a camera attached when he stormed the store around 2:30 p.m., shooting four people outside the business and nine others inside. Police said the suspect fired a barrage of more than 50 shots during the massacre.

Gendron allegedly livestreamed the attack on the gaming website Twitch before the company took down the live feed two minutes into the shooting.

Among those killed was 55-year-old Aaron Salter Jr., a retired Buffalo police officer who was working as a security guard at the supermarket. Authorities said Salter fired at the gunman, but the bullets had no effect due to the bulletproof vest the suspect wore.

Gendron was also charged last month with 26 federal counts, including 10 counts of committing a hate crime resulting in death; three counts of committing a hate crime involving an attempt to kill; 10 counts of using a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence; and three counts of using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

During his first appearance in federal court on June 16, a magistrate judge urged federal prosecutors to quickly decide whether to seek the death penalty for Gendron, citing the expense to taxpayers of defending a death-eligible defendant. Prosecutors told the judge they will inform their superiors of his request, but a decision has yet to be announced on whether federal prosecutors will seek capital punishment.

Attorneys considering psychiatric defense for teen suspect in Buffalo mass shooting originally appeared on abcnews.go.com