BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The man accused of killing 10 people and injuring three others at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo pleaded guilty to multiple state charges against him on Monday morning.
Following the plea, family members of the shooting victims, as well as their attorneys, spoke on what took place inside the courtroom and their feelings towards the shooter and his guilty plea.
“It was just gutwrenching,” said Ben Crump, one of the attorneys representing the victims’ families. “It made you angry all over again to hear how this young white supremacist just so horrendously killed those innocent people who were the salt of the Earth … They were some of the best human beings that you could find anywhere.”
In court on Monday, a minute-by-minute account of who was shot by the shooter as well as how and when was recounted. Multiple family members stated their displeasure with the shooter’s treatment since being in custody, as well as his “cleaned up” appearance in the courtroom.
“A lot of the details I didn’t know, and then to hear Zaire’s name spoken out loud, that was a hard pill to swallow,” Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Zaire Goodman, who was shot in the neck but did survive, said. “[The shooter’s] voice made me feel sick. But it showed me that I was right. That this country has a problem, this country is inherently violent, it is racist, and his voice showed that to me today — because he didn’t care.”
One of the biggest messages, however, was to ensure this doesn’t happen again — and for the family members, that includes making certain this shooting doesn’t get forgotten or “swept under the rug.”
“Let’s park here,” said Pam Young, the daughter of shooting victim Pearl Young. “Let’s think about what happened, why it happened. Let’s think about why he was taken into custody when others can have their hands up and they are not taken into custody, they end up on the ground with bullets in them. My mother had bullets in her. I did not know the full extent until I came here today.”
Other family members were adamant that change needed to happen — both through laws regarding gun control and as well as in the culture of America.
“Am I happy he’s going to jail for life? At this point, honestly, I don’t care, because that was automatic he was going to go to jail for life,” said Mark Talley, son of Geraldine Talley, who was killed in the shooting. “What would make me happy is if America acknowledges its racist history and the racism currently going on now.”
“We have a problem in America, and it’s much bigger than May 14th,” Garnell Whitfield Jr., son of shooting victim Ruth Whitfield, said. “What makes Buffalo different is the condition of this community before May 14th. There’s a reason why he targeted this community. It’s because it’s segregated, it’s under-resourced, underfunded, it’s discriminated against, it’s criminalized. All of those things led to May 14th … I heard a lot about justice today — there is no justice unless we deal with that.”
The shooter, Payton Gendron, is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 15 for sentencing.
“I want the most harsh sentence for this heinous act of violence done to people just because the color of their skin,” Crump said. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, a video is worth a billion.”
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