Buffalo shooter's family is blaming COVID

Buffalo shooter's family is blaming COVID
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Payton Gendron is the 18-year-old upstate New York resident accused of shooting up a supermarket near Buffalo, killing ten people and wounding others. (His attorney has initially entered a not guilty plea.) The media has slowly been piecing together Gendron’s online history, indicating that he was involved with white supremacy groups and holding racist views of Black people. But what pushed him over the line from participating in 4chan smack-talk to opening fire in a crowded store? The New York Post spoke to some of his relatives and they have their own suspicions, primarily that COVID is to blame. It’s not just that he had contracted COVID a few weeks prior, but instead that he suffered psychological damage from being locked down for so long and falling in with a bad crowd.

Relatives of Buffalo’s supermarket-slaughter suspect are copping the COVID defense, telling The Post on Monday that the teen likely snapped because of his paranoia and isolation from the pandemic.

They added they had no clue their kin, accused 18-year-old Payton Gendron, was an alleged white supremacist and said he clearly needed help after threatening his high-school classmates almost a year ago — although they aren’t sure he ever got it.

“I have no idea how he could have gotten caught up in this. I blame it on COVID,’’ said Sandra Komoroff, 68, a cousin of Gendron’s mom Pamela, referring to the teen’s alleged hate-fueled rampage that left 10 black people dead at a Tops Friendly Market on Saturday.

The shooter’s relatives are talking about the perils of “being alone all day on the internet” and going on the dark web. It really sounds as if they had no idea what he was up to, but Gendron had already gotten himself into trouble in the previous year, so there should have been some red flags.

I somehow doubt that Gendron’s attorney is going to attempt a “COVID defense” for his client. They may attempt some sort of insanity plea, but specifically blaming the government lockdowns sounds like a non-starter. Pretty much the entire country was locked down and managed to get through it without shooting up a shopping market. That’s not to make light of the negative effects of extended periods of isolation from friends and family, but it obviously can’t be used as an excuse for mass murder.

Another relative made reference to the fact that the shooter’s parents are “well to do.” He asked if the family did anything after Gendron’s incident last year which included a stated desire to commit a “slay-suicide” and if they will be held liable in a civil suit for not taking action. That’s a fair question, but hindsight is always 20-20. Once the boy turned 18, the parents had far less control over his actions and presumably less potential culpability.

At the end of the day, as horrible as this event was, it’s not much different from any other criminal activity in one regard. The person who is ultimately responsible is the one who makes the decision to commit acts of evil. You can spew hatred on 4chan all day long if that’s what you want to do to fill your days. But when you pick up a rifle and start shooting at people who have done nothing to threaten you, you’re on your own. It’s amazing that the police didn’t end his activities permanently at the scene of the crime. But I can’t think of any sort of defense strategy that gets him off in this case. And it doesn’t sound like he deserves one, either. (With the caveat that everyone is innocent until proven guilty or they confess, even if they livestream their actions on the web.)

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John Stossel 12:01 AM on June 09, 2023