BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Last week’s racist mass shooting in Buffalo left ten people dead and three wounded. WSKG host Sarah Gager talks with reporters Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo and Megan Zerez about what they’ve learned in the days since the attack.
SARAH GAGER, HOST:
This is WSKG News. I’m Sarah Gager. It’s been a week since a gunman carried out a racist mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo. He killed ten people and wounded three others. WSKG’s Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo and Megan Zerez have been covering this story. They’re here to give us a recap.
Phoebe, the alleged gunman is from Conklin, 15 minutes outside Binghamton. What is our community saying?
PHOEBE TAYLOR-VUOLO, BYLINE:
Binghamton had a vigil Thursday night to mourn the ten people who died. The shooter had clear racist motives — 11 of 13 people shot were Black.
Here’s community organizer Terri Weathers, speaking at the vigil. She pointed out that Binghamton was the KKK’s headquarters in the 20s.
TERRI WEATHERS: When I heard people saying, hate has no home here… really? Hate was born here. Hate was raised here.
As for Conklin, it’s a small, mostly rural town. It’s about 95% white. Politically, the town voted for Trump in the last two elections. That’s a big contrast demographically from Buffalo’s 1st Ward, where the shooting took place, or even Binghamton.
The shooter is 18. He graduated from Susquehanna Valley Senior high last year. There was an incident last year at the school. Megan, can you tell us more about that?
MEGAN ZEREZ, BYLINE:
In 2021, the shooting suspect said he wanted to commit a murder suicide. The school and police investigated, but ultimately decided he wasn’t a threat, so he was released. So what we’ve heard from the school is that they did everything they were supposed to do.
Do we know anything else about what the school is doing?
Well, at a school board meeting this week, I learned the district is also looking into a former employee with ties to the alleged shooter. The suspect’s online diary mentions a former assistant teacher he was close with. That teacher sold him ammo and other military gear ahead of the shooting, though it’s not clear if he used that ammo during the attack.
We don’t know much more than that, because the school board went into a closed session after just 15 minutes, right after mentioning the investigation. And there wasn’t anyone else present at the school board meeting aside from the board, a police officer and me.
What are parents in the district saying?
I talked to a couple of parents. They were shocked and sad of course, but many had a real hesitation to talk about the alleged shooter’s racist or extremist motives. I talked to online extremism expert Sarah Daly to try and understand that response.
SARAH DALY: For the community that knew [the alleged shooter], for the family that knew him, it’s a lot easier to say this was mental illness or this was COVID, rather than to say there was a homegrown domestic terrorist in our midst.
On that note, Governor Kathy Hochul is calling this domestic terrorism, so is the president. And the District Attorney in Buffalo was one of the first to use that label. Phoebe, what about Broome County officials, where the alleged shooter is from?
Well, I asked the Broome County DA Michael Korchak about that.
TAYLOR-VUOLO: Would you characterize this as domestic terrorism?
MICHAEL KORCHAK: Terrorism, I mean, I, you know, I’m from downstate terrorism is flying planes into buildings, this is just murder as far as I’m concerned.
So there’s a bit of inconsistency regarding the actual definition of this term. And Hochul signed an executive order into law Wednesday that establishes a new Domestic Terrorism Unit. It also requires counties to develop plans for dealing with domestic terrorism. It doesn’t specifically define the phrase “domestic terrorism.” So obviously, that’s something that DAs like Korchak are going to have to figure out.
WSKG’s Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo and Megan Zerez. Thank you so much for following this story for us.
The suspect is due back in court in June. This is WSKG News.