BUFFALO, N.Y. — The 19-year-old white gunman who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo grocery last year was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole during an emotional hearing that was briefly interrupted after a man charged toward him.
The dramatic moment came as the sister of victim Katherine Massey addressed the shooter, Payton Gendron, ahead of his sentencing for the May 14 racist massacre at Tops Friendly Markets.
“You don’t know a damn thing about Black people. We’re human. We like our kids to go to good schools. We love our kids. We never go to no neighborhoods to take people out,” Barbara Massey told the gunman.
As she continued to address the shooter, a man in a gray jogging suit ran toward Gendron, who was rushed out of the courtroom. Authorities surrounded the unidentified man, leading to a short break.
Erie County Judge Susan Egan spoke about the tense moment after everyone returned to the courtroom.
“I am sure that you are all disturbed by the physicality that we’ve seen in the courtroom here today. I understand that emotion. And I understand that anger. But we cannot have that in the courtroom,” she said.
“We must conduct ourselves appropriately because we are all better than that,” Egan added.
Victim statements then resumed.
Christopher Braden, who was shot in the leg, talked about the impact the shooting has had on him. He was one of three people injured in the attack.
Braden said he has post-traumatic stress disorder, has had four surgeries and still has two more to go.
“You’re actions completely changed my life … I have night terrors that jerk me awake in the middle of the night. It takes me 15 minutes to get out of bed,” he said.
Gendron also addressed the court, telling the victims and the world that he didn’t want anyone to be inspired by him.
“I did a terrible thing that day. I shot and killed people because they were Black. Looking back now, I can’t believe I actually did it. I believed what I read online and acted out the hate and now I can’t take it back but I wish I could,” he said.
Gendron’s apology was little consolation for the relatives of Massey, Ruth Whitfield, Pearly Young, Roberta Drury, Heyward Patterson, Celestine Chaney, Andre Mackneil, Margus Morrison, Geraldine Talley and Tops security guard Aaron Salter, the people who died in the shooting.
“You don’t mean none of that s—,” a woman yelled.
Through tears, Egan thanked the victims and their families for sharing the with the court.
“It is very meaningul to me and I believe that it is important for the defendant and the world to hear what you have to say,” she said.
More coverage of the Buffalo grocery mass shooting
Authorities said that Gendron was dressed in tactical gear when he unleashed a flurry of bullets in the parking lot of Tops. He streamed the attack on the social media platform Twitch before it was taken down.
He fatally shot three people and wounded one in the parking lot before entering the store, where he was confronted by Salter. Officials said Salter’s rounds didn’t appear to penetrate Gendron’s ballistic gear, and the gunman shot and killed the security guard before shooting others.
A document Gendron posted online claimed he had been radicalized and appeared to adhere to the false replacement theory, which has been used by white killers to justify violence against Muslims, Latinos and Jewish people around the world.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said that Gendron lived hours away and drove to Buffalo to carry out the crime. The document stated that he chose Buffalo because it was the city with the most Black residents closest to his home. Thirteen people, including 11 Black people and two white people, were shot during the massacre.
Gendron also faces 27 federal counts including murder, discharging a firearm and hate crimes. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty. The attorney general will decide whether to seek the death penalty, the Justice Department said in a news release. He pleaded not guilty in July.
Tops Friendly Markets reopened in July after undergoing extensive renovations.
Marcus Morris, 27, of east Buffalo, said he had to pray before he got out of his vehicle and walked into the store Tuesday for the first time. His uncle, Margus Morrison, was among the 10 killed.
“Your chest definitely gets a little heavy just pulling in. I sat in the car and said a little prayer before I got out for all the victims, especially my uncle,” Morris said.
“You can’t not think about it when going in there,” he added.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.