Buffalo, May 16 (US): The white gunman accused of a racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket made threatening comments that brought police to his high school last spring, but he was never charged with a crime and was not in contact with law enforcement. After he was released from hospital, officials said.
The disclosure raised questions about whether his confrontation with the police and the mental health system was another missed opportunity to put a potential mass shooter under strict supervision by law enforcement, get help, or make sure he didn’t have access to deadly firearms, the Associated reports Press (Associated Press).
Authorities said Sunday they are investigating the attack on predominantly black shoppers and workers at the Top Friendly Market as a possible federal hate crime or act of domestic terrorism.
Police said Payton Gendron, 18, traveled about 200 miles (320 km) from his home in Conklin, New York, to Buffalo to commit the attack.
Federal authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page racist document, allegedly written by Gendron, which said the attack was intended to intimidate all non-white and non-Christian people into leaving the country.
Law enforcement officials revealed Sunday that soldiers from the New York State Police were called to Gendron High School last June, to get a report that Gendron, 17, made threatening statements.
Gendron threatened to carry out a shooting at Susquehanna Valley High School, in Conklin, New York, around the time he graduated, said a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official is not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Grammaglia said Gendron had no further contact with law enforcement after a mental health assessment that put him in hospital for a day and a half.
He said, “No one called.” “No one has called with any complaints,” Grammaglia said. He said the threat was “general” in nature and had nothing to do with race.
New York is one of several states that have enacted “red flag” laws in recent years that are intended to try to prevent mass shootings by people who show warning signs that they may pose a threat to themselves or others.
These laws allow law enforcement officers, the person’s family, or in some cases, medical professionals or school officials to petition the courts to temporarily confiscate a distressed person’s firearms, or prevent them from purchasing guns.
Federal law prohibits people from owning a gun if a judge determines they have a “mentally defective” or have been compelled to enter a mental institution—but evaluation alone will not lead to a ban.
It is not clear if officials can invoke the “red flag” legislation after the incident at Susquehanna Valley High School. Police and prosecutors have not provided details of the incident, or say when Gendron purchased the weapons used in the attack.
The long list of mass shootings in the United States with missed opportunities for intervention includes the 2018 massacre of 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida, in which law enforcement officials received numerous complaints about the gunman’s threatening statements, and the killing of more than In 2017, 24 people were in a Texas church at the hands of a former US Air Force soldier who was able to purchase a rifle despite his violent history.
Among the victims of Saturday’s attack in Buffalo were an 86-year-old woman who had just visited her husband in a nursing home, a man buying a cake for his grandson, a deacon helping people go home with groceries and a supermarket security guard. .
The shooter streamed the attack live on Twitch, prompting scrutiny of how quickly social platforms were responding to violent videos.
President Joe Biden plans to visit Buffalo on Tuesday.
Gendron surrendered to the police who confronted him in the vestibule of the supermarket. He was later summoned on Saturday for premeditated murder. Relatives did not respond to messages.
A lengthy statement circulating online, attributed to Gendron, outlined a racist ideology rooted in the belief that the United States should belong only to whites.
Parts of a Twitch video circulating online showed that the gunman killed several shoppers in less than a minute. Once, he trained his weapon on a white person shivering behind the pay table, but saying “Excuse me!” And does not shoot.
Screen shots allegedly from the broadcast appear to show racial slurs targeting blacks on his rifle.
Authorities said he shot a total of 11 blacks and two whites on Saturday.
“This guy came here with the express purpose of killing as many black lives as possible,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference Sunday.