Another “racially motivated” massacre in the U.S.  

May 15, 2022 - 17:55

A heavily armed white gunman wearing military gear has opened fire on civilians with an assault rifle, killing at least ten civilians in a black community in Buffalo, New York.

Authorities are describing the massacre as "hate crime and racially motived violent extremism” as the majority of the civilians that were shot at a busy supermarket were black Americans. 

The FBI confirmed It is investigating the attack as a “hate crime” and as “racially motivated violent extremism.”

Part of the investigation includes whether the shooter had been associated with white supremacist ideology. The mass shooting is the latest massacre driven by a white supremacist ideology.

Questions have been raised as to why the incident is not being referred to as a terrorist attack? 

Some observers have already said if the color of the attacker’s skin and the color of the victims’ skin were different then U.S. authorities may have described the deadly incident as a terrorist attack. 

White supremacist ideology is an extremist ideology, if the attacker was associated with Takfiri ideology (another extremist ideology) then it would have been labeled as a terrorist attack; as is the case in West Asia. 

In an ideal world, the same would be applied to any ideology or cult that results in terrorists targeting civilians.

Law enforcement sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, also told U.S. media that initial indications are the shooter may have possessed extremist beliefs of which he was well informed about online. 

The authorities have said that among the 13 victims shot, eleven were black American and two were white. 

The sources say investigators are looking at multiple online postings that are potentially linked to the shooter himself which include praise for the South Carolina church terrorist Dylan Roof and the New Zealand Mosque terrorist Brenton Tarrant.

The supermarket that was targeted is in a predominately Black neighborhood, some five kilometers north of central Buffalo. The surrounding area is primarily a residential black neighborhood. 

Terming the attack as “racially motived violent extremism” instead of “terrorism” is open to debate but analysts say officials may be reluctant to describe this as terrorism because of the powerful gun lobby groups in the U.S. who advocate for the right of individuals to take up arms. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 198 “mass shootings” already this year in the United States. Among the casualties, 115 children have been killed and 258 others have been injured. 

Anywhere else in the world, where terrorist targets and kills civilians based on the color of their skin, race, or religion with the aim of spreading fear in that community would be regarded and treated as a terrorist attack. 

The use of the word terrorism in the U.S. would bring bad publicity about the state of security in the country; this is despite the U.S. homeland security declaring White Supremacists as the biggest domestic terror threat. 

Speaking to media outlets, officials who again wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter say the shooter was wearing military fatigues, body armor, and a tactical helmet when he entered a Tops Friendly Supermarket.

The suspect has been identified in court as Payton S. Gendron. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

According to police, Gendron shot four people in the parking area of the store, three fatally, before entering inside the supermarket where he was approached by a retired Buffalo police officer working as a guard for the store.

Police say the guard shot and hit the attacker, but it did not have any effect because of the metal body armor that he was wearing. 

Gendron then proceeded to enter the store where he shot nine more people inside, police said.

According to officials, the shooter killed at least ten people and injured three others before being taken into custody. 

Four of the shooting victims were employees at the store, while the rest were customers. The Buffalo police officer working as a security guard was among those killed, according to a law enforcement official which allowed to the attacker to enter the store. 

The two officials who were not allowed to speak publicly on the sensitive matter and did so on the condition of anonymity provided the information but Buffalo police confirmed the attacker was in custody.

Authorities say the 18-year-old white, male shooter had a video camera affixed to his helmet that streamed the shooting live online as was the case with the New Zealand Mosque terrorist Brenton Tarrant who killed dozens of Muslims in 2019. 

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, was widely praised for clearly stating that the attack which killed 51 Muslims and injured 40 more was an act of terrorism. 

Earlier at a press briefing, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said Gendron will be initially charged with state murder charges and put on trial later. 

"This is the worst nightmare any community can face," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at the same briefing. He added the suspect was not from the city and is believed to have driven for several hours to reach the predominantly black area of Buffalo.

Police officials and the supermarket chain spokesperson did not immediately respond to messages from Tehran Times seeking further comment.

Two eyewitnesses, both 20, told local media they had just pulled into the parking area when the shooter was leaving the supermarket after Gendron shot all his victims. They described him as a white male in his late teens or early 20s with full camouflage, a black helmet, and what appeared to be a rifle.

"He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like what the heck is going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face?" one of the witnesses said. He dropped to his knees. "He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun, and was tackled by the police."

Footage showed police closing off the block, lined by onlookers, and yellow police tape surrounded the entire parking lot. 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on social media that she was "closely monitoring the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo," her hometown. She said state officials have offered help to local authorities. The Erie County Sheriff's Office said on social media that it ordered all available personnel to assist Buffalo police.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," Tops Friendly Markets said in a statement. "Our top priority remains the health and well-being of our associates and customers. We appreciate the quick response of local law enforcement and are providing all available resources to assist authorities in the ongoing investigation."

More than two hours after the shooting, Erica Pugh-Mathews was waiting outside the store, behind the police tape.

“We would like to know the status of my aunt, my mother’s sister. She was in there with her fiance, they separated and went to different aisles,” she said. “A bullet barely missed him. He was able to hide in a freezer but he was not able to get to my aunt and does not know where she is. We just would like word either way if she’s OK.”

The shooting comes against the backdrop of a similar incident last year when an attack took place at a King Soopers grocery in Boulder, Colorado that killed 10 people. 

Investigators have yet to release any information about why the shooter charged in that attack targeted the supermarket.

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