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Gunman who killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket has been sentenced to life

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The man who pleaded guilty to killing 10 people in a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket last May has been sentenced to life without parole. The killer, who's white and a self-described ethno-nationalist, targeted Black shoppers in the attack.

NPR's Jasmine Garsd reports.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: The day began with emotional testimonies from the loved ones of victims. Barbara Mapps spoke about her sister, Katherine Massey, a community activist. She was 72. She was at Tops Friendly Market getting groceries when Payton Gendron walked in and opened fire, killing her and nine others.

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BARBARA MAPPS: You brought guns in our city and decide you don't like Black people. Man, you don't know a damn thing about Black people.

GARSD: Barbara Mapps' testimony was interrupted when one victim's family member rushed furiously at Gendron. Guards hustled the killer out of the courtroom until it was calm enough for Mapps to continue.

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MAPPS: We love our kin. We'd never go into no neighborhoods and take people out.

(YELLING)

GARSD: The killer expressed remorse in court today and acknowledged he cannot take back what he did. But throughout the testimonies, the trauma his racist attack caused on the community was made clear.

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BRIAN TALLEY: You came into the biggest part, the strongest part of the Black community, and you ripped us apart.

GARSD: Brian Talley (ph) spoke on behalf of victim Geraldine Talley, his sister-in-law.

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TALLEY: How can you possibly stand up here and say that you're sorry - that you're sorry? You planned this whole thing. You planned it. You put it on a video like it was a video game and watched it.

GARSD: The shooter is 19 years old, and he lived over three hours away from the community. Prosecutors have said during the months in which he planned the attack, he repeatedly drove to Masten Park on Buffalo's East Side, a predominantly Black neighborhood. He scouted the location and even counted the number of Black people present.

As she wiped tears off her face, Erie County Court Judge Susan Eagan spoke directly to the young man.

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SUSAN EAGAN: There is no place for you or your ignorant, hateful and evil ideologies in a civilized society. There can be no mercy for you, no understanding, no second chances.

GARSD: Eagan ended the day with an emotional reflection on the shooting's place in the larger history of racism in America. She sentenced the shooter to life without parole.

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EAGAN: You will never see the light of day as a free man ever again.

GARSD: Life without parole is the highest possible sentence in New York state, which does not have the death penalty. But the shooter has also been indicted on 27 federal charges, including hate and domestic terrorism. The U.S. attorney general will decide later this week whether to seek the death penalty. Defense attorneys have said the killer would be willing to plead guilty if the federal government agrees not to seek capital punishment.

Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.