Payton Gendron said he decided to use an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in his killing spree both for its effectiveness and potential to generate controversy.
“The AR-15 and its variants are very deadly when used properly,” Gendron, 18, wrote in a racist diatribe about his plan to shoot Black people in Buffalo. “Which is the reason why I picked one. High capacity magazines and ammunition that causes (enough) ballistic damage to kill effectively will be used.”
After shooting the security guard at a Tops supermarket, Gendron wrote, he would use the AR-15 to “shoot all black people twice in the chest if possible.”
Law enforcement officials have told The Buffalo News they believe the diatribe to be authentic.
Gendron bought the rifle, he wrote, at Vintage Firearms in Endicott, a town about 20 miles from where he lived.
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Retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield, whose mother was one of the victims in Saturday's mass shooting at Tops, was joined by current Fire Commissioner William Renaldo, city firefighters and Mayor Byron W. Brown, who vowed to support the relatives of all the victims of Saturday's massacre.
In a phone call with The Buffalo News, the store’s owner, Robert Donald, confirmed a New York Times report that he sold the gun to Gendron within the past few months. When the store owner ran a background check on Gendron, he said, it came up clean.
The rifle complied with state laws banning military-type features at the time he sold it, Donald said.
A previous owner of the gun had modified the rifle to limit the magazine to 10 rounds, according to Gendron’s diatribe. Gendron used his father’s power drill to undo that modification.
“That’s right, I used the dreaded military grade assault rifle-15 as my main firearm for this attack,” he wrote in the 180-page document – 100 pages of which detailed his selection of guns and other equipment.
The specific AR-15 model he used, a Bushmaster XM-15, was the same one that a 20-year-old man used to kill 26 people a decade ago at Sandy Hook.
Remington Arms, the manufacturer of the Bushmaster, agreed in February to pay $73 million to families of several Sandy Hook victims – the first time a gun manufacturer has been held liable for a mass shooting.
The families had argued that Remington marketed to civilians what was essentially a military-style rifle.
“Marketing weapons of war directly to young people known to have a strong fascination with firearms is reckless and, as too many families know, deadly conduct,” Nicole Hockley, whose son was killed at Sandy Hook, said in a statement following an announcement about the company’s settlement with the families.
“Using marketing to convey that a person is more powerful or more masculine by using a particular type or brand of firearm is deeply irresponsible,” she said.
Remington did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Sandy Hook was not the only time the Bushmaster was used in a mass killing. Four years ago, it was the model that a gunman used in Nashville, when he fatally shot four people in a Waffle House. Twenty years ago, it had been used in the Beltway sniper attacks, when 10 people were killed over a period of three weeks.
Gendron predicted that his choice of firearm would likely attract more attention to his crime.
“The media loves to hate on the AR-15, which may increase media coverage and public outlash,” he wrote.
A gun for Christmas
Gendron wrote that he planned to bring two other guns with him on Saturday: a Mossberg 500 shotgun and a Savage Axis XP rifle.
The Erie County District Attorney's Office and federal prosecutors each will have the chance to prosecute the man accused of slaying 10 people and wounding three others in Saturday's hate-inspired attack in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo.
Police on Saturday said they spotted other firearms inside his vehicle, which would be in line with what he wrote.
Gendron bought the Mossberg 500 from Pennsylvania Guns and Ammo, a short drive from his house, in November 2020, when he would have been 17 years old, he wrote.
The Mossberg 500 was used by the U.S. military in the Gulf War in 1991, and later in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A few weeks after buying the Mossberg, he received the Savage Axis XP as a Christmas gift from his father, he wrote, so that he could go hunting. It is an inexpensive rifle sold in various retail sporting goods stores.
Gendron wrote that he planned to bring the Savage Axis XP as a backup, in case he ran out of ammunition for the other two guns.
'Trying to look cool'
Much of his diatribe reads like a guidebook for others he thought might want to commit a similar mass shooting, offering advice on which weapons are more effective, where to find the best prices, and how to most effectively modify them to kill efficiently.
He spent 37 pages describing, in great detail, various options for body armor. Twenty-four pages were devoted to debating the merits of various types of helmets, comparing prices and offering tips.
More than once, he noted preferences for weapons or clothing based on what he thought would look the best.
“If you aren’t trying to look cool, what the [expletive] are you even doing?” he wrote.