(NewsNation) — Authorities said they were investigating the attack on predominantly Black shoppers and workers at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, as a potential federal hate crime or act of domestic terrorism.
Federal law reads that “willfully causing bodily injury to any person or…attempting to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person” is a hate crime.
“The evidence we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday. “And it will be prosecuted as a hate crime.”
Investigators said that the alleged shooter carefully chose this grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood, traveling about 200 miles from his home to the area.
The suspect researched the neighborhood’s demographics and conducted reconnaissance before the attack, according to investigators.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the gunman “came here with the express purpose of taking as many Black lives as he possibly could.”
A racist 180-page document, purportedly written by the suspect, could be further evidence as to whether this incident is by definition a hate crime.
The document gives plans for the attack and makes references to other racist shootings.
It also outlines a racist ideology rooted in a belief that the U.S. should belong only to white people, saying the assault was intended to terrorize all non-white, non-Christian people and get them to leave the country.
Federal authorities were working to confirm the document’s authenticity.
The FBI and the ATF are working with local law enforcement to investigate the suspect’s motivation.
This case could be prosecuted on the state level or at the federal level.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said this case could be prosecuted as a hate crime or even possibly domestic terrorism in New York. New York has laws for both.
But there’s discussion in Washington as to whether domestic terrorism should be considered a federal crime.
Both President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referenced that they do believe this is domestic terrorism.
But right now, there isn’t a law on the books at the national level that would make it a federal crime.
In New York, the suspect has already been charged with first-degree murder.