KEY POINTS

  • Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect Payton Gendron likely snapped due to isolation caused by the pandemic and paranoia, his family claims
  • Ten people were killed and three others were wounded in the shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket
  • The suspect allegedly wrote that he chose the location due to the high concentration of Black people in the area

Isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as paranoia likely caused an 18-year-old man to snap and carry out a mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket over the weekend, the suspect's family claimed.

Payton Gendron was "very heavily armed" when he arrived at Tops Friendly Markets at around 2:30 p.m. Saturday and opened fire in the parking lot and inside the supermarket, CNN reported, citing Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.

The former Broome Community College student had traveled more than three hours from Conklin, New York, to carry out the attack in the predominantly Black community where the supermarket was located.

Thirteen people, 11 of whom are Black, were shot in the incident, which ended when Gendron surrendered to police. Ten victims were killed, including a security guard and three other store employees.

Despite signs indicating that the shooting was racially motivated, Gendron's family claimed it was likely the result of him snapping due to isolation caused by COVID-19 and paranoia, according to the New York Post.

"I have no idea how he could have gotten caught up in this. I blame it on COVID," Sandra Komoroff, a cousin of Gendron's mother, told the outlet.

Gendron had "bought into the fear" of the coronavirus and was "extremely paranoid," explained the 68-year-old, who also noted that Gendron contracted COVID-19 "a few weeks ago" despite being "vaxxed to the max."

"That’s the only way to say it. And when you’re home all day on the Internet, you’re missing out on human contact. There’s a lot of emotions and a lot of body language you’re not getting [unlike] when you see their face," Komoroff added.

Meanwhile, her same-aged husband, Dave Komoroff, suggested that COVID-19 could have affected the "lizard brain," a part of the brain that, according to researchers, controls our survival instincts.

"I can't say it's impossible, but maybe that would happen one out of so many millions of times," Dave said.

However, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described the shooting, which is believed to have been planned out at least two months prior, as a "straight-up racially motivated hate crime," a report by the New York Times said.

Gendron allegedly outlined the plan for the shooting on a 180-page document posted online before the incident. In the document, which was obtained by CNN,  the suspect allegedly wrote that he chose the location due to the high concentration of Black people in the area.

The document also focused on the notion of "replacement theory," a white supremacist belief that non-whites will eventually replace white people because they have higher birth rates, according to authorities.

Gendron's extremist beliefs may have been cultivated online, and he appears to have expressed racially motivated extremist views in his online postings, unnamed law enforcement sources told ABC News.

Gendron was arraigned on one count of first-degree murder before the Buffalo City Court Saturday, according to the Erie County District Attorney's office.

He entered a not guilty plea and is expected to appear in court again Thursday.

The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime and a "case of racially motivated violent extremism," said Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I. Buffalo field office.

A total of 82,376,975 COVID-19 cases and 997,215 virus-related deaths have been reported in the U.S., according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A white gunman, bent on killing African Americans, shot 10 people dead and wounded three others at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York A white gunman, bent on killing African Americans, shot 10 people dead and wounded three others at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP / SCOTT OLSON