The white man suspected of killing 10 Black people in a racist mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in May will enter a guilty plea to a 25-count state indictment, an attorney representing victims’ families said Thursday.
“It avoids a lengthy trial that they believe would be very difficult for the families,” said attorney Terrence Connors of the plea. “I think it was pretty clear that they had no real defense.”
Conors said he represents seven families who lost loved ones in the massacre at Tops Friendly Market carried out by Payton Gendron, now 19, and the families of two people who are seriously injured.
Both the shooter’s attorney, Dan DuBois, and a spokesperson for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office said their offices could not comment because of a gag order.
A spokesperson for the DA’s Office said the shooter will appear in Eerie County Court on Monday at 2 p.m.
The DA’s office announced June 1 that a grand jury indicted the shooter on charges of domestic terrorism motivated by hate, 10 counts of first-degree murder, charges of murder and attempted murder as a hate crime and weapons possession.
The shooter previously pled not guilty to federal hate crime charges that could be punishable by the death penalty, or life in prison. In that case, he faces 27 counts, including 10 counts of hate crimes resulting in deaths, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill, and 13 counts of using, carrying or discharging a firearm in relation to a hate crime over the May 14 shooting at Tops Friendly Market.
Connors believes the “key strategy behind the [state guilty] plea is it might make it easier …. to claim there’s no need for the death penalty” to federal prosecutors, he added.
The news of the forthcoming guilty plea appears to have first been reported Thursday morning by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
At an unrelated press conference Thursday morning about an impending snow storm, newly elected Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, responded to a question about reports of the shooter’s guilty plea.
“Those families need justice. Those families deserve justice,” she said. “The pain is still raw.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, also a Democrat, concurred with the governor, adding that the court proceedings are “going to open up wounds again.”
“But I think it’s good this individual is pleading guilty,” he added.
Connors said defense attorneys for the shooter first approached him about three weeks ago to inform him and the families that they were contemplating entering a guilty plea for the 25 state counts.
As for the victims’ families reactions, Connors said: “From their standpoint, the shooter is really someone who is largely irrelevant to their lives.”
The families, he said, have spent the months since the shooting advocating for legislative changes and economic development in Buffalo.
Connors’ office is also “continuing our investigation to hold others accountable,” he said.
“We’re on the cusp of developing [civil] claims against others,” he said.
A total of 13 people, including 11 Black people and two white people, were shot in the massacre, which the suspect had streamed on the social media platform Twitch. A Twitch spokesperson had said the video was pulled “less than two minutes after the violence started.”
During an investigation into the shooting, authorities found a document that appeared to be written by the suspect, suggesting he had targeted Buffalo because it was the city with the most Black residents in closest proximity to his home.
Garland had said the Justice Department was investigating the shooting as a “hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.”
The grocery store reopened in July following a full renovation, prompting mixed reactions among community members.
Chantal Da Silva contributed.