Buffalo supermarket mass shooting victims sue online platforms that they say ‘helped load that gun’
Jul 12, 2023, 1:15 PM
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Relatives of those killed and wounded during last year’s conspiracy theories he encountered online.
“They were the conspirators, even if they don’t want to admit it,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference announcing a 171-page lawsuit.
The suit names several online platforms including Meta, Instagram, Amazon, Google and Discord, along with the maker of the body armor the shooter wore and the firearms retailers that sold him weapons.
Payton Gendron was 18 years old when he drove 200 miles (322 kilometers) from his home in Conklin, New York, and opened fire at the Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly Black Buffalo neighborhood he had researched online. Ten Black people were killed and three other victims were wounded.
Gendron is serving a prison sentence of life without parole after pleading guilty to crimes including murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate.
“Peyton Gendron pulled the trigger, but he did so only after years of exposure to addictive social media platforms, which led to his radicalization and encouragement — via the Internet — to purchase weapons and body armor to commit this heinous attack,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages. Gendron’s surviving victims and relatives of those killed said they also want changes in how the companies operate.
The mother of surviving victim Zaire Goodman described being “tagged” in a video that circulated widely online after Gendron livestreamed his rampage using a camera attached to the helmet he wore.
“No one should be looking at that,” Zeneta Everhart said.
Goodman, who was 19 when he was shot, was working at the store. Other victims included a church deacon, the store’s security guard, a father shopping for his son’s birthday cake, a grandmother of nine and the mother of a former Buffalo fire commissioner.
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesman for YouTube, which is owned by Google, said the company has invested in technology and policies to identify and remove extremist content.
“We regularly work with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to share intelligence and best practices,” José Castañeda said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
Other companies named in the lawsuit did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
“We’ve looked into the entire line of the gun distribution, the manufacturers of the body armor, the high capacity magazines that are plainly illegal and … we’ve looked into the online digital platforms,” Buffalo attorney Terrence Connors, who with Crump represents the families, said at the news conference.
“What we found was downright scary,” he said.
The suit also names Gendron’s parents, Paul and Pamela Gendron, who the lawsuit claims armed their son despite warning signs that he was dangerous.
The Gendrons’ lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“There were many people who helped him load that gun,” Crump said. “And it is our objective to make sure that everybody that loaded that gun is held to account.”