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Accused Buffalo shooter deemed not a threat in recent mental health evaluation

The 18-year-old white supremacist who killed 10 people, mostly Black, at a grocery store in New York on Sunday was on the radar of state authorities a year before the shooting but not deemed a threat, therefore not triggering the state’s “red flag” laws

Mental Health Evaluation
Evaluación de salud mental | Shutterstock

May 20, 2022 1:13pm

Updated: May 20, 2022 4:12pm

The 18-year-old white supremacist who killed 10 people, mostly Black, at a grocery store in New York on Sunday was on the radar of state authorities a year before the shooting but not deemed a threat, therefore not triggering the state’s “red flag” laws.

Payton Grendon made a school-related threat in June 2021 at Susquehanna High School in Conklin, his rural hometown. Then 17 years old, he said in an online class that his post-graduation goal was to commit murder-suicide, according to state police.

School officials quickly referred him to the proper authorities.

“The school did what they were supposed to do and called state police,” said Broome County District Attorney Michael Korchak, whos district includes Conklin, in a Tuesday interview with USA TODAY.

“And state police did what they were supposed to do and referred him for a mental health evaluation.”

Gendron told his teachers and the officers who took him to UHS Binghamton General Hospital that the threat was a joke, according to The Wall Street Journal.

He likely told the mental-health staff the same thing, leading to them determining he was not a threat to others.

Families of the victims have asked why more wasn’t done, including why an extreme risk protection order – also known as “red flag” orders – that allows police to temporarily bar those who pose a danger to themselves or others from buying or possessing firearms wasn’t issued.

The district attorney said that Gendron was not referred for a red flag order because criminal files were not filed and he had no prior record of mental illness.

“He never even mentioned a gun. He didn’t make any direct threats against students at the school or teachers or anything.” Korchak said, noting authorities did all they could in 2021 based on the circumstances.

Gendron also warned against requiring those with mental illness to register with the government, saying it could raise questions about privacy and, if too strict, might lead to some turning down mental health treatment in fear of losing access to firearms.