Racist Buffalo Mass Shooter Payton Gendron Pleads Guilty, Victims' Families Angry Over His Appearance in Court

Payton Gendron
Mass shooter Payton Gendron in a May court appearance.Getty

Buffalo mass shooter pleads guilty to racist killings of 10 people, families of the victims incensed over his cleaned-up appearance in court, where he was clean-shaven and had freshly cut hair.

Payton Grendon, a young white man armed with a semi-automatic rifle and an arsenal of racist hate, has pleaded guilty to gunning down 10 Black people in a Buffalo supermarket, after appearing in court with a new look that outraged the families of his victims.

“That's how America treats young white men, right?" said Zeneta Everhart, the mother of three survivors. “We keep them that way. We show them in a way that doesn't make them look threatening, and it's disgusting," she told WGRZ-TV.

Mark Talley, the son of another victim, said, “You see him with a sixth-grade, middle-school haircut, clean shave, looking real scrawny and nervous.” 

Everhart added, “If that were my son, if that were Zaire, pictures of him would have been in a hoodie. That's how we project Black men in this country, and we clean up our young white kids.”

Cameras were not allowed in the hearing.

Grendon, an acknowledged white supremacist, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime and one count of second-degree weapons possession. 

He also pleaded guilty to charges of domestic terrorism motivated by hate for the May rampage in a Tops supermarket that also injured three others. Now 19, Grendon was 18 at the time of the murders.

Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said Grendon's physical appearance wasn't unusual.

“Every incarcerated individual has the decision to make if they want to use the barber services,” he said. “It was evident today, from his appearances, from when I last saw him, that he decided to get a haircut before the court.

“A haircut and a shave is not going to make up for killing 10 people," Garcia said. “It doesn't matter how he appeared today. I know and everybody else knows that he's a convicted murderer.”

Grendon faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 15.

He also is charged with federal hate crimes that could carry the death penalty if convicted. The U.S. Justice Department has not said whether it will seek capital punishment. 

"The evidence of the defendant's guilt is overwhelming. This case is a poster child for swift justice," said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn at a press conference following Monday's Erie County hearing.

Prosecutor Noha Elnakib told the judge that Gendron intended to kill as many Black people as he could, "fueled by white supremacist ideology.

Grendon had targeted the grocery store because it was in a historically Black neighborhood and had conducted a trial run to map the store's interior and exits, authorities said. 

Wearing handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit, Grendon replied, "yes" each time the judge read the name of victim and asked if he killed them because of their race.

"His voice made me feel sick, but it showed me I was right," Everhart said after the hearing. "This country has a problem. This country is inherently violent. It is racist. And his voice showed that to me."

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