DOJ will seek death penalty against Buffalo mass shooter

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Department of Justice will seek the death penalty against the man who murdered 10 people and injured three others in a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket in May 2022.

Confessed murderer Payton Gendron, now 20, is already serving life in prison after he pleaded guilty to 15 state charges against him in November 2022, including first-degree domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate, which is automatically punished by life in prison without parole.

New York does not have the death penalty, but it was possible in the federal case against Gendron. His lawyers repeatedly said that he is prepared to plead guilty to the 27 federal charges against him and avoid a federal trial if the death penalty was taken off the table.

The DOJ, in a filing Friday, notified the court and lawyers for Gendron that “the United States believes the circumstances … are such that, in the event of a conviction, a sentence of death is justified.”

News 4 reported Thursday that families of victims from the Tops mass shooting were summoned to federal court Friday morning in Buffalo by Department of Justice officials for a “major announcement.”

Family members of shooting victims previously were mixed on whether they wanted to see Gendron sentenced to death, though most said they opposed the death penalty – they wanted Gendron to remain alive to suffer for the rest of his life in prison.

“They’re going after the death penalty. I mean, I understand it,” family member Mark Talley said outside the courthouse Friday. “A white supremacist killed 10 Black people. He went to the population with the highest Black population. I definitely understand it. It’ll make some people happy, some people glad. With me, I’m more of a dark person. If, God-willing, I live to 80, he lives to 80, I would have preferred to see him tortured for the rest of his life in prison, particularly here. Now he may get transferred, maybe Attica, Wyoming County, Orleans County. For me, I would’ve preferred he spend the rest of his life in prison, suffering every day.”

Talley’s mother, Geraldine, was killed in the attack.

“Does it help? I mean, maybe it’ll help somebody. It won’t help me,” he said Friday. “I mean, I really don’t care that he’s getting the death penalty. Like I said, I would prefer to see him suffer as long as I’m alive knowing he’s trapped in a place where people are around him who wants to kill him on a daily basis. Knowing if he goes into PC, knowing his mind is going to kill him eventually. Being locked in a small room for 23 hours out the day. You can only do that for so long.”

A DOJ commitee reportedly reached a decision on whether or not to recommend the death penalty for Gendron in November, but that decision had been kept private.

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