The avowed white supremacist accused of a racist attack that killed 10 people at a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 25 counts in an indictment returned by a grand jury, court documents showed.
The accused shooter, Payton Gendron, appeared in court for an arraignment hearing in front of Erie County Court Judge Susan Eagan, who ordered the 18-year-old to be held without bond, local media reported. He is due back in court on July 7.
Gendron was targeting Black people, authorities said, when he drove three hours from his home near Binghamton, New York, and shot 13 people with a semi-automatic, assault-style rifle at a Tops store in Buffalo, killing 10 in the May 14 attack.
A grand jury returned an 25-count indictment on Wednesday. The indictment’s first count - domestic terrorism motivated by hate - accuses Gendron of carrying out the attack “because of the perceived race and/or color of such person or persons” injured and killed.
New York's domestic terrorism hate crime law, proposed after a mass shooting targeting Mexicans at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas took effect Nov. 1, 2020.
Gendron is the first criminal defendant to face a charge from that law, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.
Gendron also faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 10 counts of second-degree murder, all of them as hate crimes. The grand jury, which decides whether sufficient evidence exists to bring a defendant to trial, also returned three counts of attempted murder as hate crimes and a single count of illegal possession of a weapon.
The weapons charge stems from the fact that the shooter modified the rifle to carry larger magazine, Flynn said.
The gunman streamed video of the attack to a social media platform in real time after posting white supremacist material on line showing he had drawn inspiration from previous racially motivated mass killings, authorities have said.
The shooting, along with last week's school massacre in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead, has reignited a longstanding national debate over U.S. gun laws.
Hours after the Buffalo attack, Gendron pleaded not guilty to a single count of first-degree homicide during an initial arraignment. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted. New York has no capital punishment.
© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.