Buffalo supermarket gunman could face death penalty after being indicted on federal hate crimes charges

Payton Gendron could face the death penalty following the May shooting at a Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York (Pictures: Getty/AFP)

The suspected gunman accused of killing 10 black people in a targeted mass shooting attack at a Buffalo supermarket in May has been indicted on 27 federal hate crimes and firearms offenses.

A federal grand jury charged 19-year-old Payton Gendron with 10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, 13 counts of using, carrying or discharging a firearm in relation to hate crimes, and other related charges, the US Justice Department announced Thursday.

Gendron has now been charged with 14 hate crimes violations and 13 firearms offenses following the deadly, racist attack at the Tops Friendly Supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York.

‘The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy,’ Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news release.

‘We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them,’ he added.

If convicted on all 27 counts, Gendron could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Attorney General Garland will decide at a later date whether to seek the death penalty, the Justice Department said.

The teenager has been held without bail since the May 14 shooting.

Last month, he pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder as a hate crime, 10 counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime and three counts of attempted second-degree murder as a hate crime.

Authorities have accused the suspect planned his attack months in advance, and intentionally chose the supermarket because it was located in a predominantly black community. He reportedly visited the store before the attack to sketch its layout and count the number of black people present, Garland said.

He was allegedly motivated by a racist conspiracy theory known as replacement theory, and had hoped to ‘inspire others to commit similar attacks,’ according to a criminal complaint.

The indictment came one day before the Tops store planned to quietly reopen to the public after undergoing a remodel over the two months it was closed.

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