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US teen sentenced to life for racist massacre at supermarket

A white supremacist who murdered 10 Black people during a live-streamed supermarket rampage in New York state last year was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday during an emotional hearing that saw a man lunge for the shooter.

Payton Gendron, 19, had pleaded guilty to a state charge of domestic terrorism motivated by hate over the massacre in Buffalo in May, which carries a mandatory penalty of life without parole.

The convicted teen, who told the court he was “very sorry” for his actions, still faces dozens of federal hate crime charges that could see him receive the death penalty.

“There can be no mercy for you, no understanding, no second chances. The damage you have caused is too great,” Erie County Court judge Susan Eagan told Gendron, handing down the life term.

Gendron, wearing an orange jumpsuit and glasses, had to be escorted out of the courtroom when an audience member rushed at him during emotional statements by relatives of victims.

The man was restrained and the hearing resumed several minutes later.

“I understand the emotion and I understand the anger but we cannot have that in the courtroom,” said Eagan.

Earlier, Simone Crawley, the granddaughter of 86-year-old victim Ruth Whitfield, called Gendron “a cowardly racist.”

Kimberly Salter, the widow of security guard Aaron Salter, said her family was wearing “red for the blood that he shed for his family and for his community, and black because we are still grieving.”

Gendron planned the attack for months, targeting Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo because of the surrounding neighborhood’s large African-American population.

On May 14, the then-18-year-old drove from his hometown of Conklin, more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) away, with the intention of killing as many Black people as possible, prosecutors said.

Wearing heavy body armor and wielding an AR-15 assault rifle, he shot four people in the parking lot, three of them fatally, before entering the grocery store.

Among those killed inside was Salter, a retired police officer working as a security guard. He fired several shots at the assailant before being shot and killed, police said.

Gendron wore a helmet with a video camera attached and live-streamed the two-minute attack on the platform Twitch.

– Conspiracy theory –

The victims ranged in age from 32 to 86. Eleven of the 13 people shot were Black and two were white.

At one point, Gendron apologized to a white man that he had injured and chose not to kill.

The murderer told his sentencing hearing that he had “acted out of hate.” He blamed content he had read online and said he didn’t want “anyone to be inspired by what I did.”

“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,” he said, as victims’ relatives sobbed.

Police arrested Gendron within hours of the attack and investigators found a 180-page document on his computer laying out his racist motivations for the massacre.

He had made references to the “great replacement,” a far-right conspiracy theory that claims people of color are being brought into the United States to replace white Americans.

Judge Eagan called white supremacy “an insidious cancer” in American society.

Gendron admitted all charges against him in November, including 10 counts of murder in the first degree, three attempted murder charges and one count of criminal possession of a weapon.

He had initially pleaded not guilty to a single count of first-degree murder before state authorities added the other charges.

Gendron was the first person in New York to be convicted of the state’s domestic terrorism charge, which was introduced in 2020. AFP