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Grief and Fury Sweep Though Buffalo

Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll follow developments in the Buffalo mass shooting. We’ll also look at four people who helped catch the subway attack suspect last month — and now are seeking official help with their immigration issues.

Grief and anger swept through Buffalo in the aftermath of one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history. The suspect, Payton Gendron, shot 13 people at a supermarket there on Saturday, killing 10, officials said. “This is someone who had hate in their heart, soul and mind,” Joseph Gramaglia, the Buffalo police commissioner, said on Sunday.

Officials said the gunman had targeted the supermarket because it was in a largely Black neighborhood. “This individual came here with the express purpose of taking as many Black lives as he could,” said Mayor Byron Brown, a Democrat who is Buffalo’s first Black mayor.

The dead had been doing Saturday-afternoon shopping. They included a 65-year-old woman who was there to buy strawberries for shortcake and a 32-year-old woman who stopped by to pick up something for dinner. And there was the security guard, Aaron Salter Jr., 55, a retired Buffalo police officer.

A bullet from Salter’s gun struck the assailant, but the gunman was wearing a bulletproof vest that stopped it. He believed to have posted a lengthy screed that spoke admiringly of a white supremacist ideology known as replacement theory.

President Biden condemned the attack and called on the nation to “address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America.” A White House official said Biden had spoken with Gov. Kathy Hochul and had reached out to Mayor Brown.

The grief that enveloped Buffalo spread beyond the state’s second-largest city and was tinged with outrage — and fear. Standing outside Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem, Anthony Means, 52, lamented a toxic mix of cultural intolerance and gun violence. He said there was all the more reason to be concerned if the Supreme Court strikes down New York’s restrictions on carrying guns in public.

“I just wonder, what is that going to mean?” he said. “Will everyone just decide to pick up guns and resolve their issues in that way?”

Law enforcement officials said the suspect, who was charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty on Saturday night, had carried out the attack after traveling halfway across the state from rural Conklin, N.Y. He had bought the weapon he used in Endicott, N.Y., said the owner of a gun shop there, adding that he had done a background check before selling the gun.

“He didn’t stand out,” Robert Donald, the gun store owner, said of the suspect, “because if he did, I would’ve never sold him the gun.”

Gramaglia, the Buffalo police commissioner, said the suspect had received a mental health evaluation after making “generalized threats” at his high school last year. “There was nothing that was picked up on the state police intelligence,” Gramaglia said, “nothing that was picked up on the F.B.I. intelligence.”


Prepare for a chance of showers and thunderstorms continuing through the evening, with temps near the mid-70s during the day and temps in the high 50s at night.

alternate-side parking

In effect until May 26 (Solemnity of the Ascension).

In the enclave known as “Little Palestine” in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — a neighborhood with one of the largest Palestinian populations in the city — Palestinian Americans had already planned their annual observance of what they call the nakba, or catastrophe, that occurred when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes with the creation of Israel in 1948. The killing of a prominent Palestinian American broadcaster in the occupied West Bank last week added a layer of grief to the gathering on Sunday.

The reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, was killed while covering an Israeli raid on Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian witnesses said Abu Akleh, a longtime reporter for the news channel Al Jazeera, was shot by Israeli soldiers. But Israeli officials said she could have been hit by Palestinian or Israeli fire.

“This showcases the daily brutality Palestinians have to face,” one of the organizers of the Bay Ridge rally, Nerdeen Kiswani, said as she stood near a table decorated with flowers, candles and photographs of Abu Akleh. She echoed a statement from Al Jazeera, which called the killing “blatant murder” that violated international law.

Later the group marched down Fifth Avenue. There was a brief standoff until the police, who had blocked the intersection at 72nd Street, let the marchers proceed.

Four people helped investigators after the subway attack in New York City last month. Will that be enough to persuade immigration authorities to give them visas or asylum?

One — a 37-year-old woman who asked to be identified only by her last name, Flores — was a passenger on the train where the gunman opened fire. She gave the police her cellphone. On it were videos she had made in the chaos after the shootings. She is undocumented.

The other three were working on surveillance cameras at a hardware store in the East Village in Manhattan the day after the shooting. They recognized the suspect, Frank James, as he walked by, and they flagged down police officers.

One was an undocumented Mexican immigrant. Another was a Lebanese student. The third was Zack Tahhan, a 22-year-old American-born Syrian whose enthusiastic account of how they alerted the police made him a viral sensation. “We are proud of what we did,” he told my colleague Ashley Southall. “But now we are worried about our families.”

Now the four and their lawyers are in the early stages of applying for visas and humanitarian aid that go to victims, witnesses and informants who help law enforcement.

Rifat Harb, a lawyer, representing Tahhan, a U.S. citizen, in his quest to be reunited with his parents, who are refugees in Turkey, said the United States should follow the lead of other countries that welcome immigrants who perform heroics — as France did when it granted citizenship to a Malian who climbed the facade of an apartment building to save a toddler dangling from a balcony in 2018.

Such a shortcut seems unlikely in the United States. Lawmakers have introduced 505 so-called private bills to grant citizenship or permanent residency to individuals in the last 15 years, but only three have been enacted, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Undocumented immigrants, even war veterans, have been far more likely to face deportation.

Luis Gomez Alfaro, a lawyer for Flores, plans to ask an immigration court in Buffalo to lift a deportation order issued after immigration officers raided an Amtrak train on which she was a passenger in 2000. She said she never received a hearing notice and did not find out about the order until years later.

Gomez Alfaro also said that the city should expedite paperwork supporting her application for a U visa, reserved for crime victims. Congress has set a limit of 10,000 U visas a year, and there is a five-year backlog.

Francisco Puebla, the Mexican immigrant among the four, is the manager of the hardware store where Tahhan and Mohamad Cheikh were positioning the surveillance cameras when James walked by. Gomez Alfaro, who is also representing him, said Puebla’s role could make him eligible for an S visa for informants, but only 250 are available each year.

Dear Diary:

I was rushing to a concert when I stopped at a food truck for an order of nachos.

I continued walking on Upper Broadway until I found a bench where I could sit and eat.

Oh no! There was no fork in my bag. A light rain began to fall, and I hunched to the side with my tattered raincoat pulled over me and began to eat the nachos with my hands.

Suddenly, I realized someone was standing in front of me.

Looking up, I saw an older woman holding out a pristine plastic fork wrapped in cellophane.

I thanked her profusely. She responded by producing three napkins.

— Jeanine Briefel

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Jeff Boda, Sean Piccoli and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected]

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