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Buffalo Killer Was Investigated For Making Death Threats Less Than a Year Before Tops Market Massacre

Buffalo Killer Was Investigated For Making Death Threats Less Than a Year Before Tops Market Massacre

Less than a year before he was arrested after opening fire and slaughtering 10 people in a racist attack at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in a Black neighborhood, 18-year-old Payton Gendron was investigated for making a threatening statement at his own high school.

Last June, when he was 17, Gendron made what the school categorized as “a general threat,” which resulted in state police being called and a mental health evaluation at a hospital. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told Buffalo radio station WKSE-FM that Gendron had talked about murder and suicide when a teacher asked about his plans after school ended, and it was quickly reported but the threat wasn’t considered “specific enough” to do more. No request was made to remove any firearms from Gendron’s home, New York state police said Monday. Gendron has pleaded not guilty despite Livestreaming the massacre and his attorney has declined to comment to the media.

 

New York has a “red flag” law designed to keep firearms away from people who could harm themselves or others, but Gendron was still able to legally buy an AR-15-style rifle because he passed the background check.

The revelations are raising new questions about why the law wasn’t invoked when Gendron was reported, and how the effectiveness of “red flag laws” passed in 19 states and the District of Columbia can differ based on how they’re implemented. Also known as extreme risk protection orders, red flag laws are intended to temporarily remove guns from people with potentially violent behavior, usually up to a year. In many cases, family members or law enforcement must petition the court for an order, though New York is a rare state in which educators can also start the process.

Had Gendron’s case been properly managed, it’s unlikely he would have been able to acquire the Bushmaster assault weapon sold to him at an upstate New York gun shop. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) have already obtained the paperwork from that sale.

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