The white man accused of fatally shooting 10 Black people in a racist attack at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store wrote an apology note to his family and said he carried out the attack "for the future of the White race," according to a federal criminal complaint.
The handwritten note was discovered in the bedroom of Payton Gendron a day after the May 14 shooting at Tops Friendly Market left 10 people dead and three wounded — 11 of whom are Black and two white.
Gendron, 18, was arrested at the store and faces 26 federal counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. He has already been indicted on 25 state criminal counts that include murder and attempted murder as a hate crime and weapons possession.
In his note, he "apologized to his family for committing ‘this attack’ and stated that he ‘had to commit this attack’ because he cares ‘for the future of the White race,’” according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of New York.
The FBI found the note after executing a federal search warrant at his Conklin, New York, home. Also discovered during the search was a receipt for a candy bar purchased at Tops on March 8 as well as what appears to be handwritten sketches of the interior layout of the store, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors allege that the suspect visited the store, which is in a predominately Black neighborhood, at least three times on March 8 and made two sketches during those trips. They said he also went to the store the day before the rampage "and spent time in front and inside the store," the complaint states.
About two and a half hours before the shooting, he allegedly went to Tops to note how many Black people were there and where the security guard was positioned, according to the complaint.
“Gendron’s motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks,” the complaint states.
Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters in Buffalo that "hateful acts of violence terrorize not only the individuals who are all attacked but entire communities."
According to Garland, the suspect fired about five dozen shots from his Bushmaster XM-15 rifle. According to the complaint, the phrase “The Great Replacement” was written on the rifle along with racial slurs and the names of other mass shooters.
A document allegedly written by the suspect said the shooting was motivated by the "great replacement" theory, a false narrative frequently pushed by white supremacists that a cabal is attempting to replace white Americans with nonwhite people through immigration, interracial marriage and, eventually, violence.
According to the complaint, the suspect wrote in the document that he was "perfectly sane" and that he was "a White man seeking to protect and serve my community, my people, my culture, and my race." He said in the document that he had been preparing for the attack for years and "actually got serious" about it in January.
The suspect appeared in federal court Thursday morning where a judge read the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison or the death penalty. The suspect requested a court-appointed attorney and answered questions regarding his finances, which included a small amount of cash in a bank account and two shares of Disney stock.
The judge appointed several public defenders who have experience in death penalty cases and asked prosecutors to decide quickly if they will seek the death penalty. That decision ultimately comes down to Attorney General Garland.
During the court appearance, the suspect waived his right to preliminary and bond hearings. He remains in state custody.