BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Tops mass shooting suspect, Payton Gendron, 18, faced a judge Thursday on federal charges related to the shooting.
The suspect faces 26 counts, including 10 counts of a hate crime resulting in death. Gendron, who’s been in custody since the mass shooting, was technically arrested on federal charges Thursday.
Some of the victim’s family members were there for the hearing and could be seen visibly emotional, as they heard the suspect speak.
“I’m disgusted, for a minute it makes you lose hope in humanity hearing his voice shakes me,” said Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Zaire Goodman, who was shot in the mass shooting and suffered non-fatal injuries to his neck, back and leg. While being in the courtroom was extremely difficult, for Everhart, it’s something she says she had to do.
“I need some understanding through this and I don’t understand how another human can carry out something like this,” Everhart said.
Security at the federal courthouse in Buffalo was tight, with K-9s outside and two security checkpoints inside. Gendron showed no emotion during his initial appearance on federal charges and is being represented by the Federal Public Defender’s Office.
While answering questions from Judge Kenneth Schroeder, who is presiding over the case, Gendron indicated he has $16 in his checking and savings accounts and owns two shares of stock in Disney. The lack of resources pales in comparison to the weaponry, armor and technology he’s alleged to have had.
“Somebody was funding those things,” Everhart said.
Federal prosecutors have not determined whether they’ll seek the death penalty, a determination that could be many months away.
“The Justice Department has a series of procedures that it follows, first of course, there needs to be an indictment, after the indictment then the regulatory procedures will be followed and the families and the survivors will be consulted,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Wednesday while in Buffalo.
John Elmore, an attorney for the families of two victims says it will be an exhaustive process to determine whether Gendron could face the death penalty.
“It’s going to take a long time, there’s going to be a panel in Washington that’s going to look at it,” Elmore said, “They’re going to look at all the factors they’re going to look at all the evidence and it’s going to take the government probably a year or more to make that determination as to whether or not to seek death.”
Some families of victims say they’re in support of the death penalty.
“I don’t wish death on anyone, but this right here, I have to work on that because I would rather see him dead,” said Tamika Harper, a niece of Geraldine Talley.
“I consider myself a humanist, I believe in the preservation of human life, but I also trust in the prosecutors, I trust the U.S Attorney General, if that is the direction that he thinks we need to go in this case then that’s where we’re going to go,” Everhart said.
Judge Schroeder said he would like prosecutors to indicate as soon as possible whether they will seek the death penalty so that a budget can be set on the use of expert witnesses. But, there’s no telling when that could happen. This case now heads to a grand jury.
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Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.