Prosecutors to seek death penalty for white supremacist who killed 10 at Buffalo supermarket

FILE - Payton Gendron, center, listens as he is sentenced to life in prison without parole for domestic terrorism motivated by hate and each of the 10 counts of first-degree murder, in an Erie County court room, in Buffalo, N.Y., Feb 15, 2023. Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Gendron, they said in a court filing Friday, Jan. 12, 2024..(Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP, Pool, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Federal prosecutors said Friday that they will seek the death penalty against a white supremacist who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket.

Payton Gendron, 20, is already serving a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole after he pleaded guilty to state charges of murder and hate-motivated domestic terrorism in the 2022 attack.


New York does not have capital punishment, but the Justice Department had the option of seeking the death penalty in a separate federal hate crimes case. Gendron had promised to plead guilty in that case if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

The decision marks the first time that President Joe Biden’s Justice Department has authorized a new pursuit of the death penalty.

Gendron drove more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) from his home in rural Conklin, New York, to a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo’s largely Black East Side neighborhood, where he shot eight supermarket customers, the store security guard and a church deacon who drove shoppers to and from the store with their groceries. Three people were wounded but survived.

In court papers announcing the decision to seek the death penalty, Trini Ross, the U.S. attorney for western New York, cited the substantial planning that went into the shooting, including the choice of location, which she said was meant to “maximize the number of Black victims.”

Relatives of the victims — who ranged in age from 32 to 86 — have expressed mixed views on whether they thought federal prosecutors should pursue the death penalty. Mark Talley, whose 63-year-old mother, Geraldine Talley, was killed, said he “wasn’t necessarily disappointed” by the decision, even if he would have preferred Gendron spend his life behind bars.

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