Buffalo Tops shooter expected to plead guilty to state charges, victims' attorney says
By Sonia Moghe, CNNUpdated: Thu, 17 Nov 2022 17:32:58 GMTSource: CNNThe man charged with killing 10 people and injuring more than a dozen others at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket earlier this year iBy Sonia Moghe, CNN
Updated: Thu, 17 Nov 2022 17:32:58 GMT
The man charged with killing 10 people and injuring more than a dozen others at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket earlier this year is expected to plead guilty to state charges next week, a victims' attorney said Thursday.
The suspected shooter is expected to enter guilty pleas on all 25 counts in the state indictment on Monday afternoon, said attorney Terrence Connors, who represents the families of seven people who were killed in the shooting and two who were injured.
According to the indictment handed down just weeks after the May 14 massacre at Tops Friendly Market, among the charges handed down were 10 counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime and three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime. The suspected shooter previously pleaded not guilty.
"This is a remarkable group of families that I speak for. The tragedy is still heavy in their hearts, but they've turned this nightmare into positive action," Connors said. "From their standpoint, he has become irrelevant to their lives. Their lives have become about making something positive from this horrible tragedy."
The suspect's attorney, Dan DuBois, was not permitted to comment because of a gag order in the case, he said. The Erie County District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case, is also under a gag order and declined to comment.
The suspected shooter is accused of shooting 13 people, ages 20 to 86, with a high-powered rifle. Eleven were Black and two were White, said authorities. Prosecutors allege he traveled from hours away and targeted victims because of their race.
In an apologetic note to his family, the alleged shooter said he committed the shooting spree "for the future of the White race," according to an affidavit.
He was indicted in federal proceedings on 27 counts, including 14 hate crime charges and 13 firearms charges, the Justice Department said. At a hearing in July, the 19-year-old suspect pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.
While New York has abolished the death penalty, a conviction on the federal charges could make him eligible for the death penalty, a decision that will be left to Attorney General Merrick Garland. Federal prosecutors had no comment on Connors' report Thursday.
"The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy," Garland said in a statement earlier this year. "We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them."
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a Thursday news conference the pain relatives are feeling is still raw.
"Those families need justice. Those families deserve justice," she said.
Zeneta Everhart, whose son, Zaire Goodman, 21, was injured in the shooting, attended the July hearing and said, for her, justice would mean suspected shooter spends his life in prison.
"My son is still recovering from a gunshot wound," she said. "It's hard to sit in the courtroom. He's a terrorist."
The Tops Friendly Markets store reopened "quietly and respectfully" this summer after a full renovation, company officials said. Fear and trauma still plagued the community, people attending the July reopening told CNN.