On Saturday, an 18-year-old white man in military gear drove three and a half hours into a predominantly black neighborhood. He opened fire at the TOPS Friendly Market, shooting 11 black and two white victims and killing 10 of them while live streaming with a camera attached to his helmet.
Investigators say he published a 180-page manifesto in which he described himself as a white supremacist and expressed his support for the Great Substitute conspiracy theory.
According to the Associated Press, law enforcement officials said the shooter researched local demographics while looking for locations with a high concentration of black people.
The US Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey states that the grocery store’s zip code is 78% Black, the highest percentage of Black citizens in New York State.
The US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism, according to Attorney General Merrick. The shooter was charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.
The tragedy sent shockwaves across the country amid racial tensions, gun violence and a spate of hate crimes.
Third Ward resident Betty Robinson volunteers as a social worker for the Shape Community Center.
She says she can’t understand how someone could do such a bad thing.
“I was just so shocked because it happened,” Robinson said. “You don’t know what made him do it. I think he’s mentally ill.”
Derek Gobert spends part of his time at the park next to the Shape Community Center. He shares that it’s a place where he feels safe at a time when he feels black lives are constantly in jeopardy.
“We are in difficult times right now,” Gobert said. “It’s sad to say because we’ve always dealt with incidents of racism and slavery.”
Feast with Beasts Fitness co-owner Chris Caldwell said the unthinkable acts of violence made him nervous.
“When you go to unfamiliar places, you must always be alert. You need to be vigilant in your neighborhood now when you see these types of events,” Caldwell said. “When someone pulls up, you never know who they are or what they want.”
WATCH: RESIDENTS IN THIRD DISTRICT ARE SCARED
A frequent visitor to Caldwell’s gym, Evan Charles, shared his thoughts and feelings about the mass shooting with his colleagues this afternoon. As someone who lives in the area, he says it’s mentally draining to constantly fear for your safety.
“Our communities have always struggled and been targeted by all kinds of groups,” Charles said. “These shootings are happening anywhere, whether it’s a school, a grocery store, or a church. Where can we go so we can feel safe? It feels like everyone has a gun. It’s hard to get out of the house and feel like today is going to be a good day.”
Gobert says it’s time to recognize and address that white supremacy and systemic racism are still alive and real. He objects to the notion that the mass shooter might be mentally ill and believes white offenders are treated differently by law enforcement.
“He knew what he was doing. He came blasting into a black neighborhood with tactical gear, helmets and all. Black people are fed up with this,” Gobert said. “If it was a black person who came and did that, they would have killed him on the spot.”
Caldwell says he doesn’t want his family to live in fear of the ongoing attacks and hate crimes against communities of color. While he doesn’t know the solution, he hopes more will be done to deter such events and prevent them from happening again.
“There is no easy solution. There is no quick fix. But what I would really like to see when things like this happen is that these people are held accountable,” he said.
Robinson says she wants our country’s leaders to take these incidents more seriously and take more proactive steps to prevent them.
“I always think that more can be done. I won’t say it’s not enough. But I think we can do more,” said Robinson.
In response, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee issued a statement regarding the mass shooting:
“Racism is real and racism can lead to bloodshed and murder, just like what happened in Buffalo. White supremacists and white nationalists have projected violence and death onto African Americans for generations. The hatred displayed in Buffalo manifests the pervasive undercurrent of violence directed against African Americans by those who hold extremely racist views.
White supremacists and white nationalists are documented as the greatest domestic terrorism threats. that she is not afraid to speak out about race and what has happened to African Americans since slavery.
This brave act in the midst of this mass murder of African Americans in Buffalo will show that the nation stands up to racists and racism. “The nation must also heal the disease of gun violence and an 18-year-old’s ability to obtain not only weapons of war but body armor that enabled him to kill 10 people, including a retired police officer who confronted him and who had not the body armor this violent white nationalist had. Say goodbye to HR 40 now! Pass gun safety laws now. Racism is real and America needs to deal with it now!
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https://abc13.com/mass-shooting-buffalo-new-york-racially-charged-hate-crime/11858359/ Houston’s Third Ward congregation responds to mass shooting in Buffalo, New York