Alleged teen gunman in Buffalo mass shooting set to appear in court

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — The 18-year-old suspect accused of shooting 13 people, 10 fatally, in what authorities described as a racially-motivated rampage at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket is scheduled to appear in court Thursday for a felony hearing.

The suspect, Payton Gendron, was initially charged with one count of murder following Saturday afternoon’s massacre at a Tops Friendly Market in which police officials alleged he intentionally targeted Black people in the attack he planned for months. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered to be held without bail.

Gendron is expected to face additional murder and attempted murder counts and state hate crime charges as early as Thursday. The FBI is also conducting a parallel investigation, which the Department of Justice said could lead to federal hate crime charges.

During a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, President Joe Biden called the mass shooting an act of “domestic terrorism.”

All 10 of the people killed in the attack were Black, six women and four men. Three other people were wounded in the shooting, including one Black victim and two white victims.

Gendron is scheduled to appear in Buffalo City Court at 9:30 a.m. EST.

Investigators said Gendron drove three hours from his home in Conklin, New York, and alleged he spent Friday conducting a final reconnaissance on the store before committing the mass shooting Saturday afternoon.

Authorities allege Gendron was wielding an AR-15-style rifle, dressed in military fatigues, body armor and wearing a tactical helmet with a camera attached when he stormed the store around 2:30 p.m., shooting four people outside the business and nine others inside. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the suspect fired a barrage of 50 shots during the rampage.

Police said Gendron allegedly livestreamed the attack on the gaming website Twitch before the company took down the live feed two minutes into the shooting.

Among those killed was 55-year-old Aaron Salter Jr., a retired Buffalo police officer who was working as a security guard at the supermarket. Authorities said Salter fired at the gunman, but the bullets had no effect due to the bulletproof vest the suspect wore.

Buffalo police officers arrived at the store one minute after getting the first calls of an active shooter and confronted the suspect, who responded by placing the barrel of the rifle to his chin and threatening to kill himself, according to Gramaglia. He said the officers de-escalated the situation and talked Gendron into surrendering.

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Buffalo supermarket at center of deadly shooting a community lifeline

Libby March for The Washington Post via Getty Images

(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — On the east side of Buffalo, New York, community is the neighborhood’s greatest asset and the local Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Ave. serves as a vital hub, according to area leaders.

In this predominantly Black community, which has struggled to thrive after years of historic segregation and divestment, residents say the area’s lone grocery store is a central resource and gathering place providing access to fresh food and medicine.

“We don’t got the YMCA no more in the community, so Tops is it for us,” Jeffrey Watkins, a 64-year-old long-time resident of East Buffalo, told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “It’s like a community center. We meet there every day. We’re in Tops every single day. That’s where we live.”

But on Saturday, May 14, all of that changed when an 18-year-old white male allegedly opened fire in what authorities say was a racially motivated attack, shooting and killing 10 people and injuring 3 others. Eleven of the victims are Black.

“It was a planned attack. He took away a food source. Now there’s nowhere people can eat right now,” Julien Guy, an East Buffalo resident, said.

Buffalo Councilman Ulysees Wingo said the shooting suspect “attacked an oasis in the middle of a food desert,” telling ABC News that he “wasn’t just trying to kill Black people, he was trying to starve them.”“With this store being closed – it has completely disrupted the lives of residents; it has completely interrupted the flow of how people fellowship and how we come together,” the councilman told ABC News.

An assault on the disenfranchised

Nearly 20 years ago, residents living in East Buffalo lacked access to healthy, affordable food within walking distance. The nearest grocery store was more than 3 miles away.

“Years ago, some of us worked very hard to bring this supermarket to Buffalo’s east side,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told ABC News. “This was a food desert previously,” he added.

Community leaders and city officials advocated and lobbied for a supermarket and won, opening Tops Friendly Market with much fanfare in 2003.

Since then, the grocery store has been a pinnacle of pride for the food equality and resources for which residents long fought.

“It was a really big thing about us even getting a Tops in an inner-city neighborhood,” said Roberto Archie, a resident. “It was something we really needed. We finally got it; now it’s gone again.”

Wingo said the systemic racism that ultimately perpetuated years of divestment is a major factor that makes Saturday’s deadly rampage even more devastating to a community that has struggled with historic disenfranchisement.

“This country was founded on principles that suggested Black folks were lesser than other folks. We have these nationalists and these white supremacists who think that they’re entitled to this country when the fact of the matter is this country was built on the backs of my ancestors,” Wingo said.

Banding together in the face of tragedy

In the aftermath of this tragedy, city officials have collaborated with corporations to help residents get the resources they need.

Tops Supermarket offered ongoing transportation to neighboring store chains, saying in a statement, “While the Tops location at Jefferson Avenue will remain closed until further notice, we are steadfast in our commitment to serving every corner of our community as we have for the past 60 years. Knowing the importance of this location and serving families on the east side of the city, we have taken immediate steps to ensure our neighbors are able to meet their grocery and pharmacy needs by providing free bus shuttle service starting today [May 15].”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a partnership with Uber and Lyft to provide residents free rides.

“They have offered to take people from the [local] ZIP codes, and they need to go to a grocery store in another area because a lot of people in this neighborhood walk to the grocery store. They don’t have transportation,” Hochul said on Sunday, May 15.

Resident Dayna Overton-Burns, 53, has been working around the clock to gather donations and deliver food and resources to people in need, one of several city residents who are rallying together to ensure that the community’s most vulnerable are fed.

“This is my city. This is my community. These are my people. I don’t care if you’re Black, white, or purple,” Overton-Burns told ABC News. “It’s important for me to help where I live and build community. We should be one, and not just wait for tragedy to happen in order to come together. We should be doing that work every single day.”

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Texas authorities share more details on inmate’s escape from bus

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(LEON COUNTY, Texas) — An inmate serving a life sentence for murder managed to free himself of restraints and cut through a caged area of a bus transporting him before overpowering a bus driver and escaping, Texas authorities said as the search for the inmate continued.

Gonzalo Lopez, 46, was on a transport bus en route from Gatesville to Huntsville for a medical appointment when he escaped in Leon County on May 12, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

“Due to his criminal history and restrictive housing status, inmate Lopez was being transported in a separate, caged area of the bus, designated for high-risk inmates,” the department said in an update Wednesday. “During the transport, inmate Lopez defeated his restraints, cut through the expanded metal, crawled out through the bottom of the cage, and attacked the driver.”

During the altercation with Lopez, the officer driving the bus was stabbed in the hand and punctured in the chest, suffering non-life-threatening injuries, officials said last week. Lopez allegedly tried to grab the driver’s service weapon but couldn’t remove it from the holster, officials said.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not provide any updates on what Lopez allegedly used to cut through the cage.

“He used some type of device, we don’t know what some type of device, to cut out the bottom of the door,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst told reporters last week.

The driver, Lopez and a second officer at the rear of the bus exited the vehicle, the department said Wednesday. As the second officer approached Lopez, the inmate got back on the bus and started driving away, it said.

Both officers fired at the bus, striking the rear tire. Lopez continued to drive for about a mile before crashing, officials said. Lopez then jumped off the bus and fled into the woods off Highway 7 in Leon County, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

As the search for Lopez continues, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also released new photos Wednesday of the inmate taken from surveillance footage on the morning of the escape as he was being escorted to the prison bus.

Visitation at more than 40 Texas Department of Criminal Justice units, including prisons, will be canceled until further notice starting Thursday “due to the ongoing efforts in the apprehension of escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez,” the department announced Wednesday.

Lopez is serving a life sentence for a capital murder in Hidalgo County and an attempted capital murder in Webb County, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said. The murder was committed with a pickaxe, according to Hurst.

Several local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have been involved in the search, including horse and K9 teams.

A reward for information leading to Lopez’s arrest has grown to $50,000.

ABC News’ Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

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Did the fentanyl crisis thrive because the US ignored opioid abuse?

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(NEW YORK) — As the fentanyl crisis continues to sweep across the United States, lawmakers are focused on trying to stop the flow of fentanyl into their communities, but many are saying that curbing the supply from dealers is only part of the larger problem. There’s demand.

After five decades since the start of the war on drugs, critics say these efforts haven’t helped curb drug use.

One in 14 Americans are suffering from some form of addiction to legal or illegal substances, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some say the rise in fentanyl deaths has been exacerbated by ignoring the opioid crisis and the millions of people who are already suffering from addiction who continue to seek available opioids – in many cases, fentanyl.

Ryan, who wished to be identified by first name only, said he has been living with an opioid addiction for decades. He said he just recently started using fentanyl.

“I stopped for many years. I just relapsed three months ago and I hadn’t used in 10 years,” said Ryan. “Fentanyl is in everything now.”

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Despite the risk, for many people like Ryan, despite how addictive it is, fentanyl quickly becomes their drug of choice because it is so potent.

Sam Rivera runs the nation’s first overdose prevention clinic in Harlem, New York. The aim is to not stop people from using drugs, but to supervise them when they do by offering medical support and safety.

Rivera said that goal is harm reduction and preventing overdose deaths.

“We’ve had a number of overdoses today. It seems like a potential bad batch [of fentanyl],” said Rivera. “We’re there when the overdose happens, and we’re there immediately.”

Rivera added that not a single person has ever died at his clinic.

Studies show that similar programs in other countries have successfully reduced fatal overdoses and increased access to health services, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Rivera said by giving people living with addiction a safe space to use drugs, it gets them into a supervised facility that can help them stay alive until they are ready to try to quit.

“Beautiful, hurting people are coming in with those drugs, to use them safely and stay alive,” said Rivera.

Other approaches include a clinic named Rock to Recovery In Nashville, Tennessee. They are using the power of music as therapy.

Phil Bogard, a former rock musician, is the program administrator at Rock to Recovery. He said he struggled with addiction and has been “clean and sober” for almost 14 years.

“We’ve got people playing keyboard parts, and I’m on a guitar. We’re going to write a chorus together that we can all sing along to. An hour and a half passes by and we lived in the moment,” said Bogard, who adds that music fosters a sense of belonging and community. “And hopefully we got some people to get on the other side of ‘I can’t, I won’t, I’m not able to.’”

Activists say there is no easy answer to stopping both the enduring opioid crisis and the growing fentanyl crisis, those who are struggling with an addiction and need more resources and help now.

“They’re going to use,” said Rivera. “I have people in that room right now who want to stop, they’re right there saying, ‘I want to stop.’ But at least now they’re talking about it.”

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Interstate highway shootings surged during pandemic, ABC News analysis shows

ABC News

(NEW YORK) — As the nation continues to grapple with mass shootings in New York and California this past weekend, a new analysis by ABC News and ABC’s owned stations shows a startling rise in gun violence along interstate highways across the country over the last few years.

The analysis, which examined nearly 3,000 shootings that occurred on or near U.S. interstates from January 2018 through March 2022, found that interstate highway shootings across the country spiked alongside the overall surge in gun violence over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, with New Orleans, Chicago and Memphis seeing some of the biggest spikes.

Interstate highway shootings rose from 540 incidents in 2019 to 846 incidents in 2021 — in increase of 57% — according to the data, which was collected by the Gun Violence Archive, an independent research group.

In just the first three months of this year, at least 149 shooting incidents occurred along or near interstate highways, the data shows.

In all, the incidents resulted in 680 people killed and more than 1,600 people injured over the last four years and three months, according to the data.

The full report by ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, “Highway Gunplay: An ABC News Investigation,” will stream on ABC News Live Prime with Linsey Davis, Wednesday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The data collected by the Gun Violence Archive helps shed light on some of the nation’s most dangerous stretches of highway out of the more than 47,000 miles of interstates across the country.

According to the data, I-10 in the New Orleans area has been the single most violent stretch of interstate in terms of gun incidents between 2019 and 2021. It’s followed by I-94 in the Chicago area, I-240 in the Memphis area, I-35 in the Austin area and I-70 in the St. Louis area.

Courtney Bradford, a young man who was about to be married, was shot and killed late last year while riding as a passenger in a car on I-240 in Memphis. He and his fiancé had just bought a new home to share with their 5-year-old daughter.

“I’ve called him by mistake. It’s very hard,” Bradford’s fiancé, Latoya Henley, told ABC News’ Thomas about dealing with Bradford’s death seven months ago.

The shooting that took Bradford’s life was one of 121 interstate shootings Memphis Police responded to in 2021, according to data provided by the police department.

“What’s even more unsettling is the fact that they’re so reckless,” Bradford’s mother Tonja Rounds told ABC News. “You could be aiming at one particular individual — but you’re shooting on the expressway and people are driving by, so you could shoot anybody.”

“It’s very insane,” Henley said. “I get antsy when I’m on the expressway.”

Seven months after the shooting, Henley and Rounds say police don’t appear to be any closer to determining who took Bradford’s life. The shooting occurred at night, and surveillance cameras were unable to provide any details about the car that the shots came from.

“We just keep trusting and believing that someone is going to come forward,” Rounds said.

Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit are among the cities that have been hit hardest by the surge in highway shootings over the last few years, with the number of shootings increasing even more as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the U.S.

Eight of the 10 stretches of interstates with the highest number of gun incidents between 2019 and 2021 are in those four cities, according to the Gun Violence Archive data. Shooting incidents on or near interstates in those cities alone killed at least 63 people and injured at least 284 others during that time, accounting for nearly 12% of all deaths and 23% of all injuries reported from interstate gun violence nationwide during those years.

I-10, which runs across the southern U.S. from Florida to California, had the highest number of interstate highway shootings during the pandemic period, including at least 79 incidents in Louisiana — many of them occurring around New Orleans.

“You’ve got what police chiefs are calling the pandemic impact on crime,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told ABC News. “It cannot be underestimated.”

“Traffic stops have decreased, so now a small altercation — someone cuts someone off on the road — that can quickly escalate,” Wexler said. “And that altercation becomes a shooting, becomes a homicide.”

During the pandemic years, between 2020 and 2021, the Gun Violence Archive data showed at least 121 interstate shootings in the Chicago area, averaging out to one incident every six days. The group found 73 incidents in the New Orleans area, 58 incidents in the Detroit area, 57 incidents in the Memphis are and 38 incidents in the St. Louis area.

The spike in highway shootings during the pandemic mirrors a surge in overall gun violence.

According to data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun homicides increased 35% across the country during the pandemic, to the highest level in 25 years.

Firearm murders increased most markedly among youths and young adults, with the number of victims age 10-24 rising by 40%. People of color experienced the highest increase, as the number of Black male shooting victims age 10-24 years — already 21 times higher than the number of white male victims of the same age — increased even further in 2020.

An analysis of data provided by the Houston Police Department by ABC13 showed that homicides along the city’s highways and streets doubled during the pandemic, driving a surge in the overall number of homicides in the city during the two pandemic years. Among those killed in Houston road rage incidents was 17-year-old David Castro, who was fatally shot last summer on I-10 while leaving an Astros baseball game, and Tyler Mitchell, who died earlier this month after being shot along the same interstate just before his 22nd birthday.

In California, the Gun Violence Archive identified more than 200 interstate highway shootings between January 2018 and March of 2022, with many of them occurring on I-5, I-80 and I-580. And additional shootings occurred on Southern California freeways that aren’t part of the interstate system; last year, the California Highway Patrol reported at least 80 incidents of cars being shot at while traveling on SoCal freeways in just the one-month span between late April and late May, with the majority of them occurring along the 91 Freeway that runs from east of the 15 Freeway west toward the 605 Freeway.

Law enforcement officials say the nature of highway shootings typically makes them more difficult to track and solve that other types of shootings.

“The evidence and the crime scene is moving, sometimes 70, 80, 90 miles an hour,” said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly.

As a result, said Kelly, the Illinois State Police are adding patrols and increasing searches to identify people with illegal weapons in their cars. They’ve also added new cameras along interstates to try to better track suspects.

“We will use license plate readers, we will use our air operations, we will use our patrol officers that are out there, we will use canines, we will use all the tools at our disposal to be able to pursue the people that are responsible for this violence,” Kelly said.

In the Detroit area, where the Detroit Police Department says they’ve seen an average of five freeway shootings a month over the past three years, the city has teamed up with more than three dozen other law enforcement agencies to launch “Operation Brison,” a multi-city effort to crack down on freeway shootings after two-year-old Brison Christian was killed last year when someone opened fire on his family’s vehicle on I-17 in what the police say was a case of mistaken identity.

Two alleged gang members have been charged with murder in the case.

But in Memphis, Latoya Henley is still waiting for resolution to her fiancé’s murder.

“We don’t know what happened at all,” Henley told ABC News. “We don’t know who’s involved.”

“I don’t want anyone to ever feel what I feel,” she said. “I pray a lot, ’cause the one thing I don’t want to be is angry. Because that’s what I was at first — I was angry. I was confused. And I was in disbelief. And you know, some days, I’m still in disbelief.”

ABC News’ Jack Date, Luke Barr and Alexandra Myers contributed to this report, along with Ross Weidner of WLS in Chicago, Courtney Carpenter of KTRK in Houston and Lindsey Feingold of KGO in San Francisco.

Watch “Highway Gunplay: An ABC News Investigation” on ABC News Live Prime with Linsey Davis, Wednesday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Mars lander losing power because of dust on solar panels

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — NASA’s Mars lander, called Insight, is slowly losing power because its two solar panels are covered in dust and it will need to mostly shut down by the end of May.
NASA is being forced to end its Mars lander mission early because of dust.Officials announced Tuesday the InSight spacecraft is slowly losing power because its two solar panels are covered in dust.Morever, the dust levels in the atmosphere are only increasing and sunlight is decreasing as Mars enters winter, which is speeding up the loss of power.

Power levels will likely die out in July — effectively ending operations — and, by the end of the year, project leaders expect InSight will be “inoperative.”

“People can obviously relate to, in their own homes, they have to dust because dust settles,” Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, told ABC News. “It’s the same sort of thing with these solar panels. We have dust in the Mars atmosphere that gets kicked up because of the local weather … storms where you get the dust kicked up because you have lot of wind.”

“Since Mars’s atmosphere is thinner, it goes up into the upper atmosphere and it can get distributed more widely than it would on Earth and it’ll deposit back down on whatever’s below including our spacecraft and the solar panels,” he added.

InSight is currently generating about one-tenth of the power it was when it landed on Mars in November 2018.

When the spacecraft first landed, the solar panels were producing 5,000 watt-hour for each Martian day, enough to power an electric oven for an hour and 40 minutes, NASA said. Currently, the panels are producing 500 watt-hour per Martian day, only enough to power an electric oven for 10 minutes.

Project leaders had expected the gradual dust buildup on the solar panels, but had hoped passing whirlwinds on Mars might have cleaned some of it off, but none have so far.

“Two rovers we sent back in 2003, they both experienced what we would call ‘natural cleaning’ or ‘dust cleaning events,'” Scott said. “Those winds went over the vehicles and cleared a lot fo the dust off the solar panels of those vehicles. We were were kind of hoping this would occur with a stationary lander.”

Due to the lower power, the team will put InSight’s robotic arm in a resting position known as “retirement pose” later this month. Then, by the end of the summer, the lander’s seismometer will only be turned on at certain times, such as night when winds are not as high.

Because energy is being preserved for the seismometer, NASA said non-seismic instruments “will rarely be turned on” starting next month.

InSight has detected more than 1,300 quakes since its landing, the most recent of which occurred on May 4. The data gathered from the marsquakes have helped scientists understand the composition of Mars’s deep interior, including the planet’s crust, mantle and core.

NASA said the lander had completed its primary goals during its first two years on Mars and was currently on an extended mission.

“There wasn’t really anything known about the interior of Mars,” Scott said. “Why that’s important is NASA had been looking at how our own planets formed in the Solar System. especially the rocky ones like Venus, Earth, Mars and even our own Moon.”

This is not the first time NASA has ended a Mars lander due to dust.

Opportunity, a robotic rover, landed on the planet in 2004 and was in operation until June 2018, when a global dust storm completely covered its solar panels, which ended communications with project leaders.

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Mother charged after loaded gun goes off in student’s backpack

Heather Charles/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images, FILE

(CHICAGO) — The mother of a Chicago student faces child endangerment charges after the student brought a loaded gun to school in a backpack and the weapon accidentally discharged, police said.

The incident occurred at Walt Disney Magnet School on the city’s North Side shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Chicago Police Department.

“The weapon accidentally discharged in the backpack while inside a classroom, with a bullet striking the ground and ricocheting, resulting in a classmate being grazed in the abdomen,” the department said in a statement.

The classmate was taken to a local hospital in “good condition,” the department said. Information on the ages of the students involved was not given.

Following the incident, Tatanina Kelly, 28, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment, police said.

Kelly appeared in court Wednesday, where a judge set bond at $10,000, Chicago ABC station WLS reported.

Her attorney, Rodger Clarke, argued that Kelly had no criminal record and that this was a “one-time incident, not soon to be repeated,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Walt Disney Magnet School has students in preschool through eighth grade.

In a letter obtained by WLS that was sent to parents on Tuesday, the school’s principal, Paul Riskus, addressed the incident.

“This morning during school hours, a gun was accidentally discharged on school grounds,” he wrote. “The gun discharged in a backpack and hit the floor, causing some damage and releasing debris.”

Riskus said no one was “seriously injured” and that school staff secured the gun and contacted police and and the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Safety and Security. Police confiscated the weapon.

“We are working closely with the CPS Office of Safety and Security to make a safety plan moving forward,” he wrote. “Please know that we are taking this situation extremely seriously, and CPD is investigating this incident.”

Worried family members of students who attend the school rushed to the campus in the wake of Tuesday’s incident.

“All I heard was there was a gun and I came flying,” Jennifer Uribe, whose daughter texted her about the incident, told WLS. “I wasn’t going to text her because if she had to hide, I didn’t want her doing that. So I said, ‘Stop texting me’ and I came here.”

Edwina Watkins, whose 12-year-old grandson attends the school, told WLS she was shocked.

“It is shocking for one, for a little kid to have a gun, something that should be hard for an adult to have at a school,” Watkins said.

Victor Garcia, whose son is in pre-K, told WLS he was “freaking out.”

“Gun shootings going all over the country,” he said. “This is crazy.”

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul unveils new gun law proposals in wake of Buffalo shooting

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(NEW YORK) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled proposals Wednesday afternoon to strengthen the state’s gun laws and close “loopholes” in the wake of the deadly Buffalo mass shooting over the weekend.

The announcement was planned before the weekend shooting, and was delayed by President Joe Biden’s Tuesday visit to Buffalo, Hochul’s hometown.

However, the issue takes on increased urgency as her administration reviews how the 18-year-old suspect, Payton Gendron, legally purchased his weapons and then made modifications that are illegal in New York, already home to some of the nation’s strictest gun laws.

Gendron was able to buy a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle in part because he was never subjected to New York’s red flag law, which would have prevented the store from selling him a weapon. He had undergone a mental health evaluation in June 2021, after New York State Police responded to his high school to investigate a report that the then-17-year-old Gendron made reference to murder-suicide in a paper he submitted as part of a class.

Broome County, New York, District Attorney Michael Korchak said during a news conference Wednesday that Gendron was participating in an online class when he “made some disturbing comments about murder and suicide,” which prompted the teacher to follow up to “get clarification.”

“[Gendron] indicated he was just joking and said L-O-L,” Korchak said. He said the teacher still reported the incident to the police.

Because Gendron was not on campus at the time, state police went to his home to interview him, where he again “indicated that this was a joke,” according to Korchak.

State police then took Gendron to Binghamton General Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, Korchak said, adding that Gendron stayed at the hospital overnight but was ultimately cleared.

“This defendant had been interviewed by a mental health professional and professional who deemed him to be not dangerous or not at risk,” Korchak said. “[Gendron] was released to the custody of his parents and returned home. He was actually cleared and went back to school and participated in his high school graduation.”

Korchak defended the school and state police, saying a review of the incident found it was handled “appropriately.” Neither police nor his school applied for a court petition that would have resulted in a red flag.

“The unfortunate thing is the New York State Police, school officials and mental health professionals, they don’t have a crystal ball,” Korchak said. “They can’t read into the future. They can only evaluate the subject on the information that they had at that time.”

On Wednesday, Hochul sought to take the guesswork out of what should be reported as red flag behavior. She said she is requiring state police to file an “extreme risk” order of protection when they encounter someone they believe poses a risk to himself or others.

Because no red flag warning was issued against Gendron, he was able to legally purchased the Bushmaster at a gun store in Endicott, New York, which authorities said he modified with an extended magazine that is illegal to own in New York. Investigators said he purchased the magazine at a Pennsylvania gun store 10 minutes from his home in Conklin.

Hochul also formally requested New York State Attorney General Letitia James investigate “the online resources that were used to amplify the acts and intentions of Payton Gendron,” according to a letter from the governor obtained by ABC News.

“The investigation should be directed at those platforms that may have been used to stream, promote or plan the event including, but not limited to Twitch (owned by Amazon) 4chan, 8chan and Discord,” the letter said.

The shooting was partly livestreamed on Twitch. The suspect allegedly posted chronological details of the attack online using Discord, according to law enforcement sources. He also posted on 4chan and 8chan, the sources said.

“Think about all the people who saw the livestream,” Hochul said. “The virus spreads and they find others to share their worldview, radicalizing others.”

The investigation by James could result in a civil lawsuit or a criminal prosecution.

“The terror attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate,” James said. “The fact that an individual can post detailed plans to commit such an act of hate without consequence, and then stream it for the world to see is bone-chilling and unfathomable.”

The attorney general’s office is sending a letter to the social media companies instructing them to retain relevant documents.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families,” a Discord spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. “Hate and violence have no place on Discord. We are doing everything we can to assist law enforcement in the investigation.”

Hochul also announced the creation of a new domestic terrorism unit within the state Department of Homeland Security, meant to establish best practices to confront the intersection of guns and racially motivated threats.

Even before the mass shooting in Buffalo, there was a focus on guns in the state. Illegal gun possession statistics were up last month in the state and country’s largest city, New York City. New York police made 146 more arrests for illegal guns in April 2022 versus April 2021, a 65% increase, according to the NYPD. Shooting incidents, however, did drop 29% in April 2022 versus April 2021.

Proposals already under discussion in the state Capitol include requiring local law enforcement to report recovered weapons to a federal database in a timely manner, and allowing the state to conduct its own background checks.

New requirements could also be put in place for gun dealers, beefing up training for staff and record keeping.

Gendron is expected to make his next court appearance on Thursday.

Meanwhile, loved ones of those killed in the attack were preparing for the first funeral on Friday.

Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to speak at the funeral of Hayward Patterson, 67, a church deacon. Sharpton’s National Action Network has agreed to cover the funeral costs of all 10 victims killed.

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One dead, 1 rescued after sand collapses at Jersey Shore beach: Police


(TOMS RIVER, N.J.) — One person is dead and another has been rescued after two siblings became trapped under sand while digging at a Jersey Shore beach Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

Police and emergency medical services responded to a barrier island beach in Toms River, New Jersey, shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday “for reports of juveniles trapped in the sand as it collapsed around them while digging,” the Toms River Police Department said on Facebook.

First responders were able to rescue a 17-year-old girl, who was treated at the scene, but her brother, 18, died, police said.

The victim was identified by police as Levi Caverly of Maine.

The teen was visiting the region from out of town with his family, police said.

His father described Caverly as a “tech nut” who loved to program, played the drums in a young adult worship band and was involved in his church’s worship team.

“Levi was himself. He was odd. He was quirky. He was not real concerned with what others thought,” his father, Todd Caverly, said in a statement.

Police urged people not to respond to the area while the rescue was in progress.

Live footage from the scene Tuesday evening showed more than a dozen first responders near the shoreline. Emergency crews from several neighboring towns aided in the rescue effort.

Rescue workers were working to recover the body from the collapse, police said following the incident.

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Former police officer Thomas Lane pleads guilty to manslaughter in killing of George Floyd

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(MINNEAPOLIS) — Thomas Lane, one of the former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s killing, has pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, according to the Minnesota attorney general.

State Attorney General Keith Ellison said the plea agreement reached with Lane represents an “important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation.”

Lane, 38, had been scheduled to go to trial next month in state court along with his former Minneapolis police colleagues J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao.

All three defendants were convicted in February by a federal jury on charges of violating George Floyd’s civil rights by failing to intervene or provide medical aid as their senior officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on the back of the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes in the May 25, 2020, incident.

Chauvin was convicted in state court last year of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison.

Chauvin also pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights and is awaiting sentencing after a judge accepted his plea earlier this month.

“Today, my thoughts are once again with the victims, George Floyd and his family,” Ellison said in a statement Wednesday announcing Lane’s plea. “Nothing will bring Floyd back. He should still be with us today.”

Ellison said he was “pleased” that Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death.

“While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice,” Ellison said.

There was no word on whether similar plea agreements are under consideration by Kueng and Thao, who are still scheduled to go on trial in state court on June 13.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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