The day before 18-year-old self-described white supremacist Payton Gendron allegedly killed 10 people inside Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, store manager Shonnell Harris Teague kicked him out of the grocery.
Speaking to ABC7 News, Teague described how Gendron had been panhandling outside the store on Friday, wearing the same combat getup he donned when he allegedly opened fire—targeting Black people—the next day. When he came inside a few hours later, he continued to badger customers, Teague said, and she asked him to leave, which he did without incident. “I asked him can he please leave the store—you’re gonna have to stand outside.”
She saw him again the very next day, when he was wearing the same camouflage outfit but wielding his modified automatic rifle. “I see him with his gear on and his gun and how it was all strapped on,” Teague said. “And he shot a man that was already, I don’t know if the man was moving. He must have shot him again.”
That’s when Teague ran for her life.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told ABC News on Monday that had the teen evaded arrest, he would’ve continued his rampage. Many have questioned why he wasn’t shot by police and wondered if a Black perpetrator would have been walked out of the store alive.
“We have uncovered information that if he escaped the [Tops] supermarket, he had plans to continue his attack,” Gramaglia told ABC. “He had plans to continue driving down Jefferson Ave. to shoot more Black people... possibly go to another store [or] location.”
On Sunday, as crowds gathered to mourn the loss to the community, many said they had seen the young man in the area before the attack. Grady Lewis, a 50-year-old who is a frequent shopper at Tops, said he struck up a conversation with the teen that lasted nearly 90 minutes on the day before the massacre. Lewis told The Wall Street Journal that he asked Gendron about his T-shirt, which said “Genius.”
He then told the Journal that the two discussed a range of issues, including critical race theory and Gendron’s somewhat unusual wish to build a time machine. Lewis said the Gendron avoided eye contact and kept looking at his phone. Then he asked Lewis—who is Black—if he would be at the store the next day.