Payton Gendron, the white supremacist who reportedly killed 10 people in a racially motivated attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, was suffering from “paranoia” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, his relatives say.
On Saturday, the 18-year-old opened fire with a rifle at the Tops Friendly Market on New York’s 1200 block of Jefferson Avenue, in a predominantly black neighborhood that authorities believe the suspect was the specific target.
Of the 13 people shot dead in one of the deadliest mass shootings of the year, 11 were black.
Sandra Komoroff, a niece of the suspect’s mother, said she believed Covid-19 and the paranoia surrounding it fueled Mr Gendron’s behavior.
“He was very paranoid about getting Covid, extremely paranoid, to the point that his friends said he would wear the hazmat suit [to school]Ms Komoroff, 68, told The New York Post†
“And then a few weeks ago he got Covid… He went to family gatherings wearing a breathing mask. He wasn’t going to get Covid at all and then he got Covid,” she added.
Ms Komoroff claimed that although their family has been vaccinated against the coronavirus infection, Mr Gendron has “bought in in fear of Covid”.
“That’s the only way to say it. And if you spend all day at home on the internet, you miss out on human contact. There are a lot of emotions and a lot of body language that you don’t get [as] when you see their faces,” she said.
The suspect is said to have planned the attack on the social messaging platform Discord and broadcast part of the massacre on the live streaming site Twitch.
A 180-page “manifesto” has been found online, in which the suspect refers to racist and white nationalist tropes, such as the “great replacement” conspiracy theory and has credited the anonymous and hateful 4chan community for its radicalization.
The suspect had previously threatened to blow up his high school and was taken into custody for a mental health evaluation, an anonymous law enforcement officer told the Associated Press.
Last year, Mr. Gendron had talked about committing a shooting at Susquehanna Valley Central High School in Broome County, New York, prompting school officials to call the police.
“A school official reported that this deeply troubled young man made statements that he intended to commit a shooting, either during a graduation ceremony, or some time afterward,” an unnamed official said. The Buffalo news†
Mr Gendron drove over 200 miles on Saturday to carry out the crime. He planned to drive on and “shoot more black people,” police officials said.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the suspect arrived “to take as many black lives as possible”.
The suspect was arraigned Saturday on suspicion of first degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.