Manager: I Asked Gunman to Leave Day Before Buffalo Shooting

He was allegedly pretending to be a panhandler outside Tops store
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2022 1:48 AM CDT
Manager: I Asked Gunman to Leave Store Day Before Buffalo Mass Shooting
Investigators work the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, May 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The day before an 18-year-old white man allegedly walked into a Buffalo grocery store and fatally shot 10 people in the predominantly Black neighborhood, he had been asked to leave the store by a manager. That manager's brother spoke to the Buffalo News, and said his sister, Shonnell Harris Teague, encountered the alleged shooter while she was working Friday night and that he was "posing as a beggar," asking customers for spare change. He did not appear to be threatening anyone, but she asked him to exit because he was bothering customers, her brother says. Harris Teague herself tells ABC News he did not argue and did as she asked. She told police that even though his face was covered the following day when he returned to allegedly carry out his massacre, she recognized his eyes and his voice and knew he was the same man.

Using a license plate reader and other evidence, law enforcement authorities say they have confirmed the alleged gunman, who lived three hours away, arrived in Buffalo on Friday, but they have not yet confirmed whether he stayed overnight. Meanwhile, the mother of the suspect's best friend says she is heartbroken and shocked; she says the teen "didn’t play video games that had guns. He wasn’t allowed to. He wasn’t allowed to at his house, and when he came here, he chose not to. He respected his parents' wishes," going so far as to sit in another room if his best friend was playing Call of Duty. But evidence has mounted that he self-radicalized online starting at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. FBI Director Christopher Wray says it appears "this was a targeted attack, a hate crime, and an act of racially motivated violent extremism."

Less than a year before the Buffalo massacre, the alleged gunman was investigated for allegedly making a threatening statement at his high school, the AP reports. When asked about his plans after school ended, the then-17-year-old allegedly talked to a teacher about murder and suicide; the incident was reported to state police and the suspect underwent a mental health evaluation, but ultimately it was determined not to have been a specific enough threat for any further action to be taken. As the AP notes, that incident has called into question New York's "red flag" law, which was designed to keep firearms out of the hands of people who might use them to hurt themselves or others—but which did not keep the suspect from legally purchasing an AR-15-style rifle. More on the law here. (More Buffalo shooting stories.)

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