The family of Payton Gendron, the white supremacist who killed 10 people in a racially-motivated attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, has claimed he was suffering from “paranoia” because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Saturday afternoon, May 14, Payton drove more than three hours from his hometown of Conklin in New York State, to the Tops Friendly Market in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, near Niagara Falls. Dressed in combat gear, a helmet, and wearing a camera, he carried a semi-automatic weapon, engraved with the number “14”, used in supremacist circles as shorthand for the fourteen-word maxim “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
Payton Gendron shot a total of ten people dead, including six store employees, and injured three others. Eleven of the victims were Black, according to Buffalo Police Chief, Joseph Gramaglia. The killer then exited the store. Two police officers were there, yelling at him to drop his gun. They did not fire. He complied and the police arrested him.
The suspect was subsequently charged with murder and placed in jail without bail. He has pleaded not guilty. As New York State has abolished the death penalty, he faces life imprisonment.
The black Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle used in the attack had racist language — “N****” on its’ barrel, “Here’s your reparations,” “Dylan Roof,” “John Earnest” and “SYGAOWN.”
He also wrote a manifesto that laid out specific plans to attack Black people and repeatedly cited the “great replacement” theory, the false idea that a cabal is attempting to replace white Americans with nonwhite people through immigration, and interracial marriage, and, eventually, violence.
Sandra Komoroff, a cousin of the suspect’s mother said she believed Covid-19 and the paranoia surrounding it fuelled Mr. Gendron’s behaviour.
“He was very paranoid about getting Covid, extremely paranoid, to the point that his friends were saying he would wear the hazmat suit [to school],” Ms. Komoroff, 68, told The New York Post.
“And then he got Covid just a few weeks ago… He went to family functions with a respirator mask on. He totally wasn’t going to get Covid and then he got Covid,” she added.
Ms. Komoroff claimed that although their family has been vaccinated against the coronavirus infection, Mr. Gendron “bought into the fear of Covid”.
“That’s the only way to say it. And when you’re home all day on the internet, you’re missing out on human contact. There’s a lot of emotions and a lot of body language you’re not getting [as] when you see their face,” she said.