BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — For the first time, a person is facing the highest charge in New York State.
The suspect in the mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue was arraigned yesterday on a 25-count indictment, with the highest charge being domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree.
“It requires the person to be motivated by hate relating to their race, color or creed — in this case, the victim’s race,” explained attorney Christopher Pannozzo.
Prosecutors must prove the suspect murdered five or more people with intent that was racially motivated for this charge.
“That charge only has one sentence, if in fact the defendant is found guilty of that charge, and that is life without parole. There is no minimum, there is no maximum – that is the only punishment of that charge,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.
News 4 Investigates obtained and reviewed hundreds of pages of posts on the website Discord by a person with the same username the suspect had on other platforms. According to that post, the alleged gunman chose Buffalo — specifically the Masten District — because he said it had the highest Black population in the area.
“The discord diary entries are basically giving the District Attorney’s office a roadmap for charging the suspect,” Pannozzo said.
Flynn could not speak to the evidence his office has against the suspect that leads to this charge following a gag order filed by the suspect’s attorney.
“I really can’t talk about this video or that,” Flynn said. “I’m not even going to confirm or deny there’s video. We all know what we know, but I’m not even going to confirm or deny that. I will tell you that there is a lot of evidence.”
The alleged gunman is facing several other charges, including 10 counts of murder in the first degree. All 10 victims are named in the indictment next to each charge.
The suspect is scheduled to return to court next month.