BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As another American city mourns the loss of life from a racist act of violence, many, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, have drawn comparisons between the shooting that claimed three lives in Jacksonville Sunday and the racist mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store last May.
Attorney John Elmore understands the comparisons. He represents a group of families impacted by the May 14, 2022 Tops shooting in a lawsuit against the social media companies he claims have enabled these violent acts — and he was not surprised to see what happened in Jacksonville.
“This was certainly a copycat,” Elmore said of the Jacksonville shooting. “And that was one of the things that motivated [Buffalo mass shooter] Payton Gendron: to encourage other copycat killings.”
Elmore joined News 4 at 5 on Monday and was interviewed by News 4’s Kelsey Anderson about what he feels needs to be done to prevent more hate-motivated killings. Elmore brought a list over 20 pages long that details a host of various hate groups he says are freely spreading hateful rhetoric across social media and the internet.
“Anti-semitic groups, [anti-]gay groups, anti-Muslim groups, anti-immigration groups, anti-Black racist groups, Nazi groups, and they spread their hate to the internet,” Elmore said. “And the way the internet is designed to keep people engaged so that they maximize profits for the internet platforms, these algorithms are directing people to these sites, and then they become radicalized.”
Elmore said that Congress needs to step in and impose guardrails to make the internet safer and prevent the spread of hate. He also criticized a New York State law passed last June that bans civilians from owning soft bulletproof vests — but notably does not explicitly ban the type of steel-plated vest that Gendron wore while carrying out the mass shooting in Buffalo.
“The legislation that was signed banning bulletproof vests was very poorly drafted,” Elmore said. “The [vest] that Gendron wore is perfectly legal … That body armor that Gendron wore was more sophisticated and stronger than the ones that the police wear.”
Elmore’s case against the social media companies remains in motion, with a court date for arguments before a judge set to take place in November.
You can watch the full interview with Elmore in the video player above.
Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.