BUFFALO, NEW YORK – In May 2022, white supremacist Payton Gendron entered a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, and fired an automatic rifle, killing 10 people and wounding three. Now, a nationally ranked civil rights lawyer is taking social media sites and a gun company to task for their alleged roles in the crime.
“Even though Payton Gendron fired that weapon, there were many people who helped him load that gun,” civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump told a press conference Wednesday at Elim Christian Fellowship Church.
He was surrounded by family members of the victims and eight other collaborating attorneys.
Crump filed a complaint seeking damages with the Supreme Court of New York State Wednesday naming well-known social media entities such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, claiming they knew Gendron was using their services to share hate speech, and that they encouraged such use and profited from it.
The filling also names Discord.com, a site where Gendron kept a running journal of his musings of racial extremism against Black people. The filing also names Twitch.tv, the live streaming platform where Gendron broadcast his activity in real time that fateful day from a camera attached to the front of his helmet. Vintage Firearms, where Gendron purchased the Bushmaster rifle used for the shootings, and the flea market where he acquired the high capacity magazine modification that allowed him to shoot more rounds without stopping to reload are named in the complaint too.
Lawyer Terrence Connors from Connors LLP of Buffalo explained that Remington Arms, the maker of the gun itself, is being left out of this court action as they are currently embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings. It was believed a claim against them would only slow things down and not be helpful in ultimately getting justice and closure for the families.The entire filing can be found on BenCrump.com.
At the Buffalo press conference, lawyer John Fromen described how his client, Christopher Braden, lives with survivor’s guilt. Braden was a front-end supermarket employee who took one bullet to his leg in the shooting. Once Gendron realized he’d injured a white person, he apologized and moved on to specifically find Black victims. Buffalo police eventually hoisted Braden into a shopping cart, wheeled him past the bodies, and out to the parking lot where he was treated by emergency responders.
“These were coworkers and customers I called friends,” said Braden, who now walks with a cane and suffers from PTSD, no longer able to go outside his home to earn a living.
Pamela Pritchett, surviving daughter of shooting victim Pearl Young, spoke of what it was like to be back in the very church where her mother’s funeral was held just over a year ago, describing how her knees almost buckled as she walked down the aisle. (Activist and political analyst Al Sharpton offered to carry the tab for all the victim’s funerals.) Because of the access afforded to Gendron by Twitch.tv, Pritchett’s children watched the death of their grandmother on social media as if it were nothing more than a video game. Reflecting on what it’s taken for her to go on without her mother, Pritchett advised all listening to “hold on to those small blessings,” and to “have faith that love is greater than hate.”
Robin Harris, the eldest daughter of shooting victim Ruth Whitfield, talked of the pain of the ubiquitous reminders in her life of the massacre.
“Every other day when I open the news, I see my mom. It just all needs to stop” she said, as she held her body together with stoicism and grit. Only her right arm, as it quivered on the lectern like a leaf in the wind, belied the depth of her grief.
Her voice trailed as she melted into tears. “It all needs to stop.”
Crump told the press conference that the legal action is a fight against white supremacy and all its enablers,
“This is far more than a news story,” Crump said.