On May 14, a mass shooting took place in Buffalo, NY at a local Tops Friendly Market, allegedly targeting Buffalo’s Black community.
Ten people were killed and three were wounded in the shooting, 11 of whom were Black. Investigators said the alleged perpetrator had driven to Buffalo from his home in Conklin, a town in Broome County miles away from Binghamton. After combing through the suspect’s online posts, including messages on Discord claiming that the location was chosen due to the percentage of Black residents within its ZIP code, investigators said the suspect had planned the attack well in advance, according to the New York Times. The gun used in the shooting — an AR-15 style weapon — was legally purchased at a gun store in New York state.
Since the incident, various Binghamton University organizations and departments have shared responses. BU President Harvey Stenger and Vice President Karen Jones released a written statement on Sunday.
“[BU] grieves with the families of the victims and the city of Buffalo following the senseless shooting that killed 10 people and wounded others,” Stenger and Jones wrote. “The spirit of racism, hatred and acts of violence has once again shown its ugliness, destroying the lives of innocent people — targeted simply because of who they are, for what they represent as a people. There is no place in our society for such blatant racism, hatred and violence.”
Four of the victims killed in the attack were employees at the supermarket. Many were well known in their community, including Aaron Salter, 59, a security guard, Katherine Massey, 72, a longtime civil rights activist and Pearl Young, 77, a substitute teacher from a local school district.
The accused perpetrator, Payton Gendron, 18, had referenced the “great replacement theory” as a motive behind the attack in an alleged 180-page manifesto posted online, which also included detailed plans for an intended shooting. The conspiracy theory, a false concept often propagated by white supremacists, alleges that white people are being replaced in a coordinated effort through methods such as immigration. Gendron has since been charged with first-degree murder and plead not guilty.
On Monday, BU’s Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP) released a statement on the incident, describing it as part of a larger framework of identity-based violence. In the statement, I-GMAP called for stronger gun-control, accountability of social media companies that promote radicalization and the confrontation of mass-perpetuated conspiracy theories.
“The particular conspiracy theory that ensnared the perpetrator, so-called replacement theory, argues that a shadowy cadre of liberal political elites uses immigration policies as part of a broader plot to replace white Americans with members of other ethnic and racial groups,” I-GMAP wrote. “While fringe white supremacist sites peddle this theory in blunt terms, a spectrum of Republican politicians and pundits, such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, have adopted their own version of replacement theory, tailored for wider consumption and dissemination.”
According to Broome County District Attorney Michael Korchak, the accused was a former student at Susquehanna Valley High School, having graduated in June 2021. The high school had previously contacted New York State Police last year after the student made “disturbing” comments regarding murder-suicide.
Korchak said the student had not made threats against the high school or students, and returned to school following a mental health evaluation at a local hospital.
“From the information provided to this office, the Susquehanna Valley Central School District and the New York State Police followed the procedures and protocols that were in place at that time,” Korchak wrote in a press release. “I am certain that members of the New York State legislature will review the facts and circumstances of this case and propose appropriate changes as necessary, regarding mental health and background checks when purchasing firearms.”
In an alleged social media post by Gendron from Jan. 30, 2022, the suspect claimed he was able to return to school following his mental health evaluation by claiming his murder-suicide plans were a joke, when in reality the comment had detailed what he was “planning to do,” the suspect wrote in the post.
Some BU student organizations shared statements on social media following the shooting, including the Latin American Student Union (LASU). In an email, LASU expressed solidarity with the Black community.
“Our identities and very existence are ruthlessly debated, dehumanized and targeted but we can always find solace within our own communities,” LASU wrote in an email. “We will always fight for our Black community members and practice the acts of love and care that have resiliently survived every attempt to eliminate our voices.”
Locally, the Stakeholders of Broome County, a housing activist group, has organized a candlelight vigil to be held in honor of the victims of the shooting. At the vigil, which is scheduled for Thursday evening at the Peacemaker’s Stage on Court Street, the Stakeholders plan to collect donated items to provide to the affected Buffalo neighborhood.
As the campus community continues to respond to the shooting, Stenger and Jones encouraged the community to work toward promoting change.
“The emotional and psychological toll these incidents have on our communities is profound and members of our communities are silently suffering as they try to cope with these horrific events,” Stenger and Jones wrote. “It is time for us to come together as a nation and a campus to prevent this type of violence from becoming the norm; we must work toward seeing the humanity in each other.”