Buffalo attack is ‘act of domestic terrorism’ along lines of Okla. City, Columbine

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Buffalo attack is 'act of domestic terrorism' along lines of Okla. City, Columbine

The Buffalo massacre was an “act of domestic terrorism” along the lines of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine shooting and the Parkland slaughter, civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump said Monday.

Crump joined grieving relatives of beloved 86-year-old matriarch Ruth Whitfield — one of 10 people allegedly killed by a white supremacist at a supermarket — in a church in Buffalo to decry Saturday’s race-fueled horror.

“We can’t sugar-coat it, we can’t try to explain it away, talking about mental illness. No, this was an act of domestic terrorism,’’ Crump said. “And just like America responds to terrorism, America needs to respond to this act of bigotry, racism and hate as a terrorist act.”

He said it should be treated with the same kind of outrage and federal response as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building in which 168 people died, the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in which 13 people were killed, and the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 victims dead.

“This was a terrorist act — it is no less a terrorist act because it was a black grocery store,’’ Crump said at the emotional press conference.

“This was a domestic terrorist act, just like they did in [the] Oklahoma City bombing and all the other terrorist acts like Columbine and Parkland. This is just as bad,” Crump said.

Ruth Whitfield is a Buffalo mass shooting victim, who died at 86 years-old.
Buffalo mass shooting victim Ruth Whitfield
Buffalo shooting
Police officers investigate the gruesome crime scene.
Reuters/Jeffrey T. Barnes

He said those who helped indoctrinate Buffalo’s accused white supremacist killer Payton Gendron should be treated as “accomplices to this mass murder.”

Crump said Gendron clearly laid out his horrific racist plans in a 180-page manifesto posted online before the shooting.

“He went to Tops supermarket here in Buffalo, New York, in this predominantly African American community with the objective to kill as many black people as he could,” Crump said.

Benjamin Crump
Attorney Ben Crump speaks during a news conference with family members of Ruth Whitfield, who was killed during a shooting at a Tops supermarket.
Reuters/Brendan McDermid
 Payton Gendron
Crump believes Payton Gendron should be considered a terrorist.
AP/Erie County District Attorney’s Office

“The people who curate the hate, the people who inspire the hate on websites, and internet services and cable news stations,” Crump said. “Those people who radicalize these young people to go out and orchestrate heinous acts of violence, heinous acts of hate — we have to get to the root of the hate.

“They loaded the gun, and we have to hold them accountable, too,” Crump said. “We cannot let people continue to radicalize our young people to hate one another because of the color of their skin. We’re better than this, America.”

Crump urged US lawmakers to pass the proposed national anti-black-hate-crime bill to strengthen penalties against perpetrators.

“I believe the anti-Asian hate crime bill passed with very little resistance,’’ Crump said, referring to legislation passed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buffalo shooting
Crump consoles family members of Ruth Whitfield.
Reuters/Brendan McDermid

“And so I expect the Democratic leadership to push forward this anti-black-hate-crime bill with the same conviction. It is only appropriate. It is only right.

“This is the spirit of Ruth Whitfield talking to do something positive in the wake of this pain.”

One of Whitfield’s two sons — former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr. — was at the presser and recalled how his mother dutifully visited his elderly father at his nursing home before going to the supermarket, where she was killed.

“Obviously I have no words that come to mind that fit this occasion as we stand here as a family forever changed, forever damaged, forever without,” an emotional Garnell said.

Ruth Whitfield
Whitfield frequently visited her husband at the local nursing home.
Tops Friendly Markets
People gather during a vigil near Tops Friendly Markets supermarket following the mass shooting.
James Keivom

Garnell said his late mother had held his family together throughout her life.

“There’s nothing we can do that’s going to take away the hurt, take away these tears, take away the pain, take away the hole in our hearts,” he said. “Because part of us is gone, senselessly taken from us by hate.”

But Garnell said the family wasn’t just in a world of pain.

“We’re angry, we’re mad,” he said. “This shouldn’t have happened.

“We do our best to be good citizens, to be good people. We believe in God, we treat people with decency and we love even our enemies. And you expect us to keep doing this over and over and over again — forgive and forget — while the people who elect and trust in offices around this country do their best not to protect us.”

Crump and two other lawyers are representing the family over Ruth Whitfield’s death.

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