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Buffalo Accused Killer May Mount Unusual Defense

A woman lights a candle at a memorial for victims at the scene of a shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, U.S., May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The 18 year-old White supremacist charged in Saturday’s mass killings at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York’s Black community may attempt an unusual defense when brought to trial on first degree murder charges, to which he has entered a "not guilty" plea.

The New York Post newspaper says relatives of the accused, Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, attribute his alleged violent behavior to his exaggerated fears of getting COVID.

“I blame it on COVID” Sandra Komoroff, a cousin of the suspect’s mother told the Post. “He was very paranoid about getting COVID – extremely paranoid, to the point that – his friends were saying – he would wear the hazmat suit [to school],” the paper quoted.

Joining Komoroff in this possible explanation for the ten alleged murders was her husband, Dave, also aged 68.

“In theory, {COVID] could have affected what they call the lizard brain – the part of the brain that controls aggression,” he is quoted in the Post as saying, “I can’t say it’s impossible.”

Neither Komoroff was identified as a health professional with psychiatric proficiencies.

Buffalo police announced on Monday that Gendron allegedly made plans to open fire at two other locations besides the Tops supermarket in the heart of the northwest New York city’s Black community. Authorities say they have obtained online messages outlining the other targets, including routes for approaching and exiting those areas.

The U.S. government considers Gendron’s alleged murders as hate crimes.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, as reported by the Washington Post, has told other law enforcement officials “I want to be clear, for my part, from everything we know, this was a targeted attack, a hate crime, and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.”

Authorities say the accused allegedly wrote a 180 page “manifesto” containing a White supremacist theory of so-called “replacement” – an unproven accusation that non-White people were being deliberately brought to the United States to reduce the White proportion of the nation’s population for political purposes – to overwhelm votes cast by Whites. This “replacement” theory has gained traction in the White supremacist community and has been discussed aloud on U.S. television programs.

Observers say clear signs of Gendron’s hatred and propensity for violence were apparent well in advance of the May 14 supermarket shootings.

Last June, the suspect was taken to a psychiatric facility after stating in school that me planned to commit “murder/suicide” and the New York State Police were notified. But Gendron was able to convince those holding him that he made that statement just to get out of school. And because of that, he was able to access firearms.

“That is the reason I believe I am still able to purchase guns,” he is quoted as saying by the Washington Post in social media, adding “It was not a joke. I wrote that down because that’s what I was planning to do.”

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Black community and others grieve the violence and loss of life. VOA’s Laurel Bowman listened to some of them react to the mayhem suddenly thrust upon them.

Buffalo Residents Mourn Victims of Hate Crime Shooting
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U.S. President Joe Biden went to Buffalo Tuesday to meet with community leaders and people, conveying to them his and the nation’s condolences for the loss of ten lives to alleged racial hatred.