The gunman who killed 10 people and injured three in a shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York last May was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole, in an emotional hearing during which the family members of some of the victims addressed him directly.
Both Erie County Court Judge Susan Eagan and the relatives spoke in no uncertain terms about the white supremacist views that led Payton Gendron to deliberately target a grocery store frequented by Black community members in an attack that he plotted for months beforehand.
"There is no place for you or your ignorant, hateful, and evil ideologies in a civilized society," Eagan told Gendron. "There can be no mercy for you, no understanding, no second chances. The damage you have caused is too great, and the people you have hurt are too valuable to this community. You will never see the light of day as a free man ever again."
"You are a cowardly racist. You recorded the last moments of our loved ones' lives to garner support for your hateful cause, but you immortalized them instead."
All 10 of the people Gendron killed in the massacre, which he livestreamed, were Black. Prior to the shooting, he professed a belief in so-called "replacement theory," the false notion that white Americans are being intentionally "replaced" by people of color.
"You are a cowardly racist," said Simone Crawley, whose grandmother, Ruth Whitfield, was killed in the shooting. "You recorded the last moments of our loved ones' lives to garner support for your hateful cause, but you immortalized them instead."
Crawley added that Gendron was the only person who directly carried out the attack, but rejected the label of "lone wolf," saying he is "part of a larger organized network of domestic terrorists."
"And to that network, we say we, as a people, are unbreakable," she said.
Gendron spoke briefly at the hearing, saying he is "very sorry" for carrying out the mass shooting and does not want similar racist attacks to take place.
"I shot and killed people because they were Black. Looking back now, I can't believe I actually did," he said. "I know I can't take it back, but I wish I could, and I don't want anyone to be inspired by me and what I did."
Gendron was not flagged by New York's "red flag law," which ostensibly allows law enforcement agents to remove firearms from the possession of people deemed a threat to themselves or others. In 2021, he underwent a psychiatric evaluation after threatening to commit a murder-suicide.
One spectator on Wednesday began screaming at Gendron as he spoke, and earlier in the hearing, a person was restrained after attempting to lunge at him.
The New York Timesreported that people assembled in the courtroom were heard "sobbing loudly into their hands" and that court security officers as well as a defense attorney representing Gendron became visibly emotional.
Gendron earlier pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of domestic terrorism motivated by hate.
Federal hate crimes and weapons violation charges, some of which could carry a death penalty sentence, are pending.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams and was authored by Julia Conley.