May 17, 2022
Buffalo officials hold press conference for mass shooting update on 5/16/22 Transcript
Buffalo officials deliver an update on 5/16/22 regarding the shooting at Tops supermarket. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:01)
Mayor Brown: (00:01)
I want to thank the members of the media for joining us. We’re going to have an extended press briefing this afternoon. As we begin this new week, our community continues to grieve and heal. We are a strong community. We are rallying around one another and we will continue to move forward as a strong city of Buffalo, county of Erie and Western New York region. Late today, we have been made aware of many social media posts going around with possible threats. I want to be clear, Buffalo police and our partnering law enforcement agencies standing here are investigating these social media posts and will prosecute if necessary. And I want to emphasize arrests have already been made and you’ll be hearing more about those. I’m now going to turn things over to Buffalo Police Commissioner, Joseph Gramaglia.
Joseph Gramaglia: (01:06)
Thank you, Mayor. So, as I said before, this is a very long investigation. It’s going to continue to be a very lengthy investigation. The scene is still being processed. Search warrants have been obtained and executed, and they will still be obtained. There’s a lot of digital footprint, electronics that we’ll have to go through. So that process is ongoing. Information has also come as a result of some of this investigation that the individual was here a few months ago, back in early March. So as I said, there’s a lot of material to go through, so that we have confirmed now that it appears that individual was here back a couple of months ago in early March. So at this point, like I said, going to be a lengthy investigation. Things will change. Information will change as we become aware of that. That’s about all I have on the investigation at this point.
Mayor Brown: (01:56)
Okay. Thank you. Thank you. We’ll now hear from U.S. Attorney for the Western District, Trini Ross.
Trini Ross: (02:06)
The federal investigation is continuing. We’re working again jointly with our state and local law enforcement partners. Regarding the threats that have been going around on the internet, we have a point of contact person in my office to deal specifically with those threats, as we have several prosecutors dealing with the investigation of the crime that took place on Saturday. So the U.S. Attorney’s Office is actively engaged in this investigation. We will continue to be, and we’ll continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the District Attorney’s Office, DA Flynn, as necessary.
Mayor Brown: (02:44)
We’ll now hear from Erie County District Attorney, John Flynn.
John Flynn: (02:51)
So I want to touch on a couple of topics right here this afternoon, and I’ll piggyback on what the Mayor said at the end here. First of all, those of you who are local reporters know my MO and how I proceed with talking about investigations and matters during the course of the legal process. Some of you from out of town, let me explain how I work. Once an arraignment has happened, I pretty much shut down, because the legal proceeding has started and I just do not talk during the course of the legal proceeding. In this matter, right here, obviously, this is a very high profile case. There’s a lot of information out there. I made an exception for today. So this today, Monday being the first business day since Saturday, I’ve done a number of interviews today. I will continue to do some more interviews tonight.
John Flynn: (04:02)
I’m here standing right now in front of you. But after today is over, I am done. And after today is over the next proceeding that will take place will be the felony hearing. And once the felony hearing is over on Thursday, the matter is going to go, for lack of a better phrase, into grand jury posture. So once it goes in a grand jury posture, the envelope of secrecy now is going to cover everything. And we’re pretty much going to shut down all investigative, all prosecution information. So that’s kind of the game plan going forward. I can tell you right now that there has been a new development with regard to the prosecution. As all of you know, on Saturday night at the arraignment, the defense attorney made a request for a forensic examination. That request was to the judge, that two medical doctors look at my client and evaluate him to determine whether or not we can proceed.
John Flynn: (05:26)
Less than 24 hours later, the defense attorney withdrew that request. So that forensic examination has now been withdrawn. I don’t see the need to ask for it myself. So I’m not going to ask for it. The judge has the ability sua sponte, on his own, for those of you who didn’t take Latin, on his own to order the investigation, a forensic. He did not feel need to do that. So the mental health forensic part of this has now become a moot point and is now off the table. So we are proceeding now to Thursday’s felony hearing.
John Flynn: (06:12)
One of two things is going to happen at that felony hearing. The defendant is either going to waive that felony hearing or the felony hearing is going to happen on Thursday, and then we’ll go forward. So again, just kind of a… I’m just trying to let everyone know in advance. Once that felony hearing happens on Thursday, the quote unquote, “Grand jury investigation,” is going to begin. And I will not be able to talk more about anything having to do with this investigation until there has been an indictment on this matter. Again, for those of you out of town, my MO is after an indictment, there will be an arraignment on the indictment and I will do a press conference on the arraignment on the indictment.
John Flynn: (07:05)
But then… Once I do a briefing on the arraignment on the indictment, I again shut down again until trial. So just kind of want to let everyone from out of town know how I operate. I’ve been operating that way for the past five and a half years. I’m going to continue to operate that way. Even though obviously this is a very high profile case.
John Flynn: (07:47)
The second thing I want to say is that I understand that there is a court of public opinion out there. I understand that there’s the narrative out there that there is so much evidence it’s overwhelming. This guy is guilty. This guy did it, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I understand that court of opinion. I understand emotions are high. I understand the rawness of this matter. However, I do not operate in the court of public opinion. I operate in a court of law. And this defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Let me repeat that. He is innocent until proven guilty.
John Flynn: (08:38)
He has only been charged right now with one charge and that’s it. It is an accusation. It is an allegation. And that’s all it is. As a prosecutor, I have three communities that I have to protect their rights. I have to protect the rights of the public, the victims, and the defendant. And I have to ensure that the defendant has a fair trial here in Buffalo, New York. That is my job, to ensure a fair and impartial trial. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that that happens.
John Flynn: (09:27)
The last thing I want to talk about, and I want to piggyback what the Mayor said, There’s a lot of chatter out there. There is a lot of threats out there that I’m hearing about and that we’re hearing about in law enforcement. One of those threats happened yesterday. A 52-year-old man from Buffalo yesterday, allegedly, and again, allegedly, called up a pizzeria at 12:05 PM and made threatening comments to the employee referencing what happened at Tops. 45 minutes later, allegedly, that same individual called up a brewery in Downtown Buffalo and made similar threatening comments. Again, alluding to what happened at Tops. The pizzeria and the brewery called BPD. As usual, BPD did a great job. Found out who this guy was, went and arrested him last night.
John Flynn: (10:40)
We held him last night because it was a D felony. And under the New York State bail laws, we can hold someone overnight for a D felony, which we did. We held him overnight. And we arraigned him this morning on a D felony making a terrorist threat. Facing up a seven years in jail. Now, what’s ironic is that this is a non-bailable qualifying offense. And in this case here, the judge ordered a forensic on him as well. So he’s being held pending a forensic. But once that forensic is over, he has to walk free. That’s something we also got to tweak in the bail laws right there, where we can hold someone overnight and arrest him on a D felony and hold him on an appearance ticket. But after he gets arraigned, we can’t hold him and put him on bail. We got to let him walk out the door, which is going to happen here in this case, once the forensic is over. But I go off on a tangent there. I’m sorry.
John Flynn: (11:49)
Let me get back to the threats here that’s going on. This is what’s going to happen if you make threats. You are going to get arrested and then I am going to prosecute you. So let this case send a message out there to any tough guy or anyone who wants to be cute out there and sending messages or threatening anyone or threatening to do anyone or putting anything on social media. I will find you, and I will arrest you, and I will prosecute you. And I didn’t mean to speak for Trini, but so will she. So let this case send a message. Again, this man is innocent until proven guilty as well. He has just been charged. It’s an allegation. I’m not saying he did it, but I’m saying he’s facing seven years in jail. And that’s what anyone in the public is going to face if they want to threat and if they want to reference the awful tragedy at tops.
Mayor Brown: (13:01)
Thank you, Mr. District Attorney. I want to thank the media for bearing with us. This is a very active working firehouse, so there might be more in and outs with fire apparatus. Now, I want to just thank again, law enforcement that has worked in a collective and collaborative way. Yesterday, I heard from the director of the National FBI, Director Wray, pledging the resources of the FBI at the very highest level. Steve Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI here in Buffalo, has been a tremendous partner. And we’re going to hear from Special Agent In Charge Belongia right now.
Steve Belongia: (13:54)
Thank you, Mayor. I just want to make a couple of comments. First, there have been questions in the community about when the processing of the Tops grocery store will be completed. The FBI laboratory at Quantico has provided advanced tools and advanced training, teams that have been trained in special techniques that can be used to map the location, can be used to create digital models, can be used to create physical models, as well as mapping and the trajectory of bullets. This process is painstaking. It takes time. And we will continue as quickly as possible to process that scene so it can be released back to this community, which relies on this grocery store so much. But I will say we have to take our time. We have to be methodical. That is what the victims of this horrible tragedy deserves. Also, to the mayor’s point, besides the evidence response resources that the FBI has provided, the entire FBI Buffalo office is dedicated to this investigation. Along with enormous resources from our state, federal and local partners, including the ATF.
Steve Belongia: (15:17)
We have resources that have been provided by headquarters, including from our domestic terrorism unit, from our criminal investigative division, from our victim services division, who has sent approximately 10 individuals up to help care for the needs of the victims in this horrible tragedy. Along with that, our headquarters has sent up resources from our evidence… Our employee assistance program, rather, who is going to help, they’re going to help tend to the needs of the first responders. Not only at the FBI, but also with our state and local partners, including the Buffalo PD, who had a lot of officers that were in on that horrible scene. So we are putting all available resources-
We see. So we are putting all available resources on this investigation. All of us, collectively, state, federal, and local are working around the clock to get answers and get justice for the victims of this horrible, horrible. Thank you. Turn it over to Chief Garcia. [inaudible 00:16:20]
Chief Garcia: (16:23)
Thank you, Steve. The Erie County Sheriff’s office continues to provide all resources, all manpower to both the Buffalo police department and the FBI here. I’m so proud to work shoulder and shoulder with Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, and a Special Agent in Charge Steven [inaudible 00:16:44]. And also our prosecution, the honorable John Flyn in the DA’s office, and Ms Trini Ross and the US Attorney’s Office. You could be confident that you have a great team in place and everything will be done properly.
Chief Garcia: (17:02)
I am so proud of the community. I walked around today and this individual that came here and tried to divide the city of Buffalo and Erie County did not succeed. People are stronger, we’re more united than ever, and kudos to all out people. Again, my condolences and that of the Sheriff’s office goes out to all the victims and their families.
Chief Garcia: (17:34)
In regards to incarcerated individual 157103, he continues to be in our custody. He continues to be on suicide watch, which means he’s in a cloth smock, which is ligature proof, with a blanket, which is ligature proof. He’s in a segregated unit, aside from the rest of the general population. And that’s for his safety. He continues to be offered both health, physical and mental health. So I will ensure that he will continue to be safe from himself and from everyone else. Again, thank you to Mayor Brown and thank you to all the law enforcement working together. This is what makes Buffalo special. Thank you.
Mayor Brown: (18:39)
We’ll now hear from the majority leader of the New York State Assembly, Crystal Peoples-Stokes.
Crystal Peoples-Stokes: (18:48)
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. This is a community that is without a doubt in a lot of pain. People are hurting. But I want to commend law enforcement who are collectively working with the mayor and his team to do exactly what should happen, and that is make sure that justice prevails. I will remind you all though that as an African American, there are a lot of people in this community who are hurting because they know that justice for all is not specific enough. Sometimes people get left out of that justice. This can’t happen this time. It can’t happen this time. I understand, just like the guy who called in the threats to the pizzeria and to the beer establishment, you’re innocent into your proven guilty. But this young man was walking around with a camera on his head. He showed the whole world what he was doing.
Crystal Peoples-Stokes: (19:43)
And I understand he got to go through a court. I get that. But a lot of the anger that people are having, aside from the fact that their loved ones have been murdered for going to the supermarket, is that justice is not specific enough. This can’t be another one of those cases. I want to honor all the people who have called my office from all over the state offering support to this community, including the businesses that have called and offered to support the families with food, with hotels, with airlines to be able to get here to come to a funeral, including the people who are willing to help pay for the funeral.
Crystal Peoples-Stokes: (20:26)
People have poured out their love to Buffalo, and that’s what we’re going to pour back. That’s how we’re going to heal. People who want to bring us hate and expect us to assume that hate because that’s what they have is not going to happen here. There will not be an outpouring of hate. There will be an outpour of healing. We will all heal together and we will ensure this time, Mr. DA, Mr. Law Enforcement, and Ms. Trini that justice for all is specific enough, and it means everybody gets justice in America. Thank you.
Mayor Brown: (21:01)
Well now hear from the Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz.
Mark Poloncarz: (21:09)
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And on behalf of the people of Erie County, I just want to commend the tremendous work of the entire team here. Starting of course, with the City of Buffalo, with the Buffalo Police Department. It truly has been a united effort to address this. The majority leader is correct, there’s a lot of people in pain. There’s a lot of people hurting, and truthfully none more so than the families of those who were taken on Saturday. The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office is in the process of performing the autopsies. We’ve had calls as to when the deceased will be released to the families through their funeral directors. I’ve been advised by the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office they expect to complete the autopsies by the end of day on Wednesday.
Mark Poloncarz: (21:52)
There is a process that has to be followed to ensure that the evidence that is provided to the District Attorney’s office so that they can successfully prosecute this manner is followed to a T, and therefore they do anticipate that they should be able to complete that process for each of the deceased by the end of Wednesday. As a family member, if you have questions you should contact your funeral director and the director will make the direct contact then to the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Mark Poloncarz: (22:19)
The Erie County Department of Mental Health has been coordinating mental health services for the community. As most people know, we have a drop in center at the Johnny B. Wiley Center, just not too far away from here, 1100 Jefferson. We started that yesterday, 9:00 to 9:00. It is open today 9:00 to 9:00. We’ve had an increased usage at the Johnny B. Wiley Center for both adults, and we have specialized services for children. And therefore we will be continuing the Johnny B. Wiley Center drop in mental health service counseling. If you just want to talk to somebody, regardless of whether you are at the scene, you are a relative of a victim, or just someone who’s in pain like we know so many in our community are, you can come down to the Johnny B. Wiley Center and you will have a discussion where they trained counselor.
Mark Poloncarz: (23:13)
For those who are not able to go to the Johnny B. Wiley Center, we also of course have our 24 hour crisis hotline through Crisis Services, you can call 716-834-3131 to talk to a trained individual anytime. Doesn’t matter if it’s afternoon or 3:00 in the morning, it is a 24 hour staffed phone number. And I want to thank everyone in the local crisis intervention field and mental health counselors, they’ve all come together to offer their services so that the people of this community can heal as quickly as possible.
Mark Poloncarz: (23:49)
And then of course, we know that the Top supermarket is closed, and it is an integral part of this community. And because of its closure, it has basically created a food desert in this neighborhood. So there are many partners who of course are working to ensure that the community has access to fresh quality food. And I want to thank Tops Markets, as well as FeedMore of Western New York for collaborating with the Erie County Department of Social Services and Department of Health. There is a food distribution center at the Resource Council of Western New York building at 347 East Ferry, which is literally a couple blocks away from the site.
Mark Poloncarz: (24:27)
There are stores of course, neighborhood stores that exist, but many of them don’t have fresh food and meats and vegetables. There is a refrigerated vehicle on site that’s being provided by Tops Markets, and FeedMore of Western New York is doing the same thing, so that individuals do not have to travel out of their immediate neighborhood to access fresh quality food, and the goal is to continue that through May 27th. We understand that there was a significant line of individuals there today, and that will continue. We may open up another site in the immediate area so that there is sufficient locations for the public to get to. If we do open that other site, we will announce it to the general public. But once again, we are all working together to not only help this neighborhood that’s in crisis and the individuals who unfortunately are dealing with serious mental health concerns as a result of this, but to heal as a community so that we are stronger. If this gentleman came here to hoping to divide our community, he did the complete opposite. We are united like we’ve never been before. Thank you.
Mayor Brown: (25:33)
This mass shooting event in Buffalo has brought together many elected officials at every level of government, elected representatives working to make sure the people of this community are taken care of in the aftermath of this horrible violence. We’re joined by Council President Darius Pridgen, we’re going to hear from the council president.
Darius Pridgen: (26:00)
Thank you, mayor. Buffalo is known as the city of good neighbors, and that’s why it took somebody to come from outside of Buffalo, to come into the city of good neighbors. It wasn’t somebody from inside. But what happened, and if you walk these streets right now, people have arrived from not just Western New York, but from across the country. People have come into our churches, people have offered help, and people have stood up. But I want to be clear, it’s not enough to send money if we don’t stand up against racism. If we don’t stand up against those who feel that white supremacy as a system is okay.
Darius Pridgen: (26:49)
And so I’ve been encouraging people who have called me all day long to say, “What can I do?” Tell the truth. Tell the truth that this is not the only racist and not the only white supremacist believer in our country and have the uncomfortable conversations at home. Have the uncomfortable conversations on your job. Lose some friends who disagree with you. And when you say to someone, especially someone who has been through this tragedy, “I’m checking on you.” If you just say, “I’m checking on you,” it’s not enough. After saying, ” I’m checking on you,” you might want to stand up and say, “And what happened in Buffalo, New York was horrible, and horrific, and should not be tolerated in any country, in any community.” Our community is stronger. I’m joined by common council members who are here, we’re stronger and we’re going to get stronger. We may not be the same, but we are going to be okay.
Darius Pridgen: (27:54)
Finally, and thank you, mayor, I’m most concerned, and thank you County Executive, for the counselors. I had to send two teenagers to school today. My wife said, no. I said, yes. I won. About 11:00 I lost because I called her and said, “You can go get them from school.” And when she picked up my youngest, he had already had a horrible day. Our community needs to take advantage of those mental health counselors. And not only our community, but communities who are affected and hurting across this country to make sure we take care of us. Thank you, mayor. Thank you for your leadership and to all of our first responders. I know it’s been tough, but you’ve done it. Thank you, sir.
Mayor Brown: (28:42)
I want to thank Council President Pridgen for those powerful comments. Many of us have been taking the time to speak to young people in this community. And young people are really hurting. I talked to one woman today and she said her son was messed up. Messed up. This has really affected young people in this community. Some who were there to witness this tragedy, and others who have family members who have been involved with this tragedy, but just young people in general who feel the pain of this attack and feel the sting of racism. Let’s talk to our young people. The conversations with our young people have to be had, because they’re hurting. Thank you, council president. Now we’re going to hear from the Chairwoman of the Erie County Legislature, April Baskin.
April Baskin: (29:50)
Thank you Mr. Mayor. Thank you for your stellar leadership during this crisis and thank you to my colleagues in government. I’m so happy to see that our majority leader has returned home, rearranged her schedule so abruptly to be with us. We’ve missed her the last couple of days. And to our leader in county government, the county executive, for his hard work and the wonderful job that his commissioners have done shortly after this tragedy, this massacre that happened just next door on Saturday night. Several county commissioners came together to help establish this community resource center that is housed in the community that has been terrorized by this individual.
April Baskin: (30:38)
And I have been there with my colleague, legislator Howard Johnson, every single day since the tragedy supporting agencies who have partnered Erie County. Making sure that there are no financial barriers, being the county’s fiscal oversight house, to make sure that we have all the resources that we need to provide food, to provide qualified and certified mental health counselors to our community who is not just hurting, not just in the process of healing, but they’re traumatized. They are literally traumatized and it is irreversible trauma that has happened to our community for no other reason other than the skin that they have been born in.
April Baskin: (31:28)
It is so disappointing to hear our district attorney speak of copycats or people who are making light of this issue that has forever changed the lives, broken the lives, broken hearts of innocent people for no more reason than the color of their skin. I believe that we have people, not just agitators from outside Erie County, but people within Erie County too, we have to be honest here, that are far too comfortable with doing heinous acts of terror based on race and white supremacy.
April Baskin: (32:03)
… Of terror based on race and white supremacy, and we have to shift their comfort levels immediately. We cannot stand for it any longer. I’ve been working nonstop, talking to my colleagues in the county legislature, working with our staff who has had limited sleep since Saturday night, developing policies, trying to develop creative legislation that will help protect our community, that will strengthen people of color in Erie county. And not just make sure that they are protected, but that they thrive.
April Baskin: (32:40)
I am so broken hearted and I, myself and my own children, I know my colleagues join me in this, in the trauma that has been inflicted on the black community in Buffalo and Erie county. But I stand here to tell you as a representative of the legislature, that if we operate on a budget of $1.8 billion annually, we can find ways to prioritize the protection of our community in ways that we have never done before.
April Baskin: (33:12)
And I’m committed as the leader of the legislature in doing just that. I too want to thank the community who has come together so urgently, the private business sector who have reached out to offer support to our families who have been traumatized by this massacre. And I will continue to work in concert with the county executive and his administration on making sure that Erie county is placing resources where they need to be to get us on a pathway of healing and never having to revisit this trauma again in our region. God bless you all. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Brown: (33:56)
The council president mentioned the members of the city council. All of the members of the city council have been very active in responding to this issue. Two other members are here. I want to ask the council, the majority leader, David Rivera to come and give his comments. And then we will hear from south district council member, Christopher Stanley.
David Rivera: (34:26)
Thank you very much, Mayor our colleagues and government and law enforcement for your efforts over the last few days. Pretty soon, this will stop being an active crime scene. The dead will be buried. Kids will be going back to school. Employees will be going back to Tops market. However, there are some emotional traumas that continue to exist that we have to deal with. And I’m glad to hear the county executive is putting all his resources, the administration and the common council will do everything we can to help our children, to help the people whose lives were changed forever more.
David Rivera: (35:14)
But all of that will go away and we’ll be having conversations months again. And I hope that we don’t have to go through another experience like this before something systemic happens to prevent these kinds of racist incidents. It is too common in this country. There’ll be another Buffalo, another Sandy Hook somewhere else, unless something systemic changes. And that is our goal. Our goal is the aftermath of what has happened here.
David Rivera: (35:53)
You already heard about the legal processes, and all the process that have to happen legally, and where he’s at and what condition he’s in. But what happens after that is the question we need to ask, ask our representatives. Something has to change. Conversations need to be had. Decisions need to be made. We can’t let people instill fear in us. And that’s exactly what they want to do. All those emotions, hatred, fear, anger, that’s what they want us to feel. But right now we’re not feeling that, we’re working together. We’re lifting ourselves up and we want to move forward, and we want something to change so this doesn’t reoccur somewhere else.
David Rivera: (36:44)
We should never tolerate racism anywhere in this country. It should not be defended. We shouldn’t give it an audience. It shouldn’t be on social media. It shouldn’t have a voice. And that’s exactly what they have. They have a platform and a voice on social media that is spreading all over this country, and something structurally needs to happen. I’m hoping that our electeds, the ones that make those decisions are listening carefully, that this doesn’t happen again. Thank you very much.
Mayor Brown: (37:19)
Thank you. Council member Stanley.
Thank you mayor. I want to start by thanking the men and women of law enforcement who are with us today, and their colleagues in law enforcement for their Herculean efforts the past 48 hours. I know that the efforts of these men and women are going to ultimately lead to justice in this situation. On Saturday afternoon, a perpetrator of evil descended upon this community with the goal of sewing seeds of terror and racism and hatred and division. And this person was successful in terrorizing this community, but what we will not do, and what we cannot do is let those seeds of hatred and racism and division grow. I know we’re going to come together as a community and with the love of this community come together and combat that. Before we do that, I heard council president [inaudible 00:38:10] talking the other night, and I thought he said something incredibly poignant, where he said, “Before we can come together and heal this community and those affected have to be allowed to grieve.” And whether it’s feelings of anger, sorrow, confusion, disbelief, those feelings have to be processed. And we have to allow for that process to play out. And ultimately then we can come together and heal.
But while that’s taking place, it’s incumbent upon all of us to come together and do some other things. And regardless of race, creed, or any other differences, there are amongst us, we have to make sure we’re coming together. And as the council president also mentioned, the mayor mentioned, and some others, fight this racism, fight this hatred at any corner you see. As he mentioned, be willing to lose some friends, be willing to stand out, be willing to be uncomfortable in certain situations, stand up and point out what’s wrong and do not hesitate, because only then are we going to turn a corner on this. And then only then will we become together and move forward.
I have a seven and a five year old at home, and they’re aware of what took place Saturday to a certain extent. And while, is it something I want to do? No. But it’s incumbent upon me as their parent to have the difficult conversation with them, and explain to them that what happened was rooted in hatred and rooted in racism. Not to sweep this uncomfortable conversation under the rug as people have done for so many years, because only by having these uncomfortable conversation, are we going to, as I said, be able to turn the corner and come together.
And once we can, we’ll be able to unite and heal and move forward. But in the meantime, I ask everyone to please come together, not just during Sunday service or times like that, but each day and every day. Anything you see where someone’s spreading hatred, spreading racism, stand up and please say something so we can move forward as one loving community. Thank you, mayor.
Mayor Brown: (40:04)
You’ve heard from many of the speakers. You’ve seen it yourself. The tremendous outpouring of support from corporations, companies, individuals who want to do something to help the families of the beautiful lives that were lost in this attack on our community, to help this community heal. Two of those people are here with us today. We are joined by Thurman and Patty Thomas. The Thurman Thomas foundation is committed to making a substantial donation for the efforts that will directly impact the families of the victims and the surrounding community. I’d like to ask Thurman and Patty Thomas to come to the microphone and talk about their donation.
Thurman Thomas: (41:03)
Thank you, mayor. I’m a little emotional right now. Really, I am. I’m hurting for the city that I love. I’m hurting for other people on the east side, their families, our friends, and our community. You read about stuff happening in other states, but when it’s right here at home, it is tough. It really is tough. And this is a time that we need to come together. We really, really do. And I just appreciate everybody here in Buffalo, man, that have treated me like I was one of your own. And for Mary to have me down here to be a part of this is something special. But we’re going to continue as a family, as a foundation to do everything that we possibly can to make this better, to make this right.
Patty Thomas: (41:59)
We’d like to thank everybody behind us, law enforcement and government officials for working so tirelessly with these families. And on that scene, we know that it can’t be easy. And law enforcement protecting us and just dealing with all of these threats and protecting this community, we can’t thank you guys enough. This is hard. And we know that the community is hurting, and there’s a lot of great efforts out there. Ours is just one of them. You can trust that anything that is given through our foundation, we are working with the folks behind us to make sure that it has a serious impact on this community. And we raised over a $100,000 since yesterday. And we’re here for you guys and we’re here for the folks behind us. And there were a lot of things that were said here today that rang true. Buffalo is a city of good neighbors, but hate exists everywhere. And we have got to come together. We have to come together and let Buffalo be a beacon of how that can happen. Let us set an example on how people can come together. Thank you.
Mayor Brown: (43:28)
So Thurman and Patty Thomas are more members of the community that are making a substantial financial commitment to help families heal, to help the community heal and to help us move past the pain. I also want to mention and recognize that the leadership at New Era cap company has agreed to make a $300,000 donation in order to support the highest needs possible and all those directly impacted by this tragedy.
Mayor Brown: (44:12)
As the community learned the identities of the victims, the New Era team learned and was especially heartbroken to hear that Ms. Celestine Chaney, a former associate of the company and member of the New Era family was one of the Buffalonians who had her life cut short prematurely on Saturday afternoon. I also want to indicate that we have enlisted the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to work with all of us in processing these donations and making sure that they properly get to the families. Each and every one of us standing here is getting multiple calls from companies, from businesses, from members of the community wanting to help and wanting to donate.
Mayor Brown: (45:15)
For those that would like to help or donate in some way, Dotty Gallagher, the president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership is spearheading this effort and taking donations. We do not want to take the donations. We do not want to process the donations. We want to make sure that they’re properly processed, and quickly get to the families who need assistance. The number to call is 716 541-1701. Again, that number is 716 541 1701, for all those corporations, businesses, companies, and individuals that want to provide a monetary donation of support to help the families, and to help the community.
Mayor Brown: (46:19)
As we conclude, again, I want to thank the law enforcement community, the first responder community for working together in such amazing fashion to protect this community and to respond to this tragedy. The first responders were the Buffalo police officers and the Buffalo firefighters that ran to danger, ran to help people and put their lives on the line to do that. We owe them, and we owe all these members of law enforcement a debt of gratitude in this situation. So we thank them for that. I now want to open up for any questions that the members of the media have.
Speaker 2: (47:13)
For the Police commissioner, the visit here back in March by the alleged shooter, was that at the Tops. How did you learn about this new information?
Joseph Gramaglia: (47:24)
At this point I’m not going to get into the specifics of what we learned. I just wanted to confirm that the information has come in. We have uncovered evidence that he was here in this area, but for investigative purposes, I don’t want to elaborate on that right now.
Speaker 2: (47:37)
There’s a social media posting. Are you guys looking into that as part of that investigation [inaudible 00:47:43] social media posting?
Joseph Gramaglia: (47:45)
Everything is being looked into, as I said, every digital footprint is being looked at. Warrants have been executed, will continue to be obtained and executed.
Speaker 2: (47:53)
You don’t want to comment on that specifically?
Joseph Gramaglia: (47:54)
No, I’m not going to get any of that specifically. Things change rapidly as well.
Speaker 3: (48:00)
Sandy, go ahead.
All right. Is it true that on Friday…
Sandy go ahead. Is it true that on Friday, the assailant was at the Tops and panhandling. We’ve heard from an employee who said that he was disturbing customers and that she had actually asked him to leave. Wanted to know if that’s true. Also, we have seen photos of images that looked like there were handwritten names on the weapon that was used by this assailant and we’re wondering if that’s the case.
Joseph Gramaglia: (48:24)
I’m not going to confirm anything that you brought up. I’m not going to confirm any statements. Again, we have investigative things that have to be protected. As I have confirmed in the past, he was in the area on Friday. He was over here on Friday, but beyond that, we have to protect the investigation because of the prosecution
Speaker 13: (48:43)
Speaker 4: (48:43)
In regard to Buffalo’s history, segregation. And I’m not sure if who wants to answer this, but the fact that Buffalo, specifically the east side is so heavily segregated has come up a number of times since Saturday’s shooting, how do we combat this? And is this something that you guys are discussing now that it is being raised?
Mayor Brown: (49:08)
So we are working collectively to build a community of opportunity for all people, focusing on affordable housing, going into the different sections of the city of Buffalo, focusing on creating more employment opportunities, helping businesses to grow, to put all of our people in the city of Buffalo and Erie county to work, focusing on training opportunities where we can rapidly up-skill members of this community to be able to go from training to high paying quality living wage jobs. Those are the efforts that many of us, all of us, are working on collectively to create more opportunities for every single resident of the community. We know the historical reputation of a segregated city, that is no longer the reality of what Buffalo is. Many neighborhoods are integrating. When I first moved into this neighborhood, and yes, I live in this zip code.
Mayor Brown: (50:22)
This is a supermarket that I go to from time to time. My family members go to from time to time. This community was probably about 90% African American. Now the number is about 80% African American. So we see the demographics in the city of Buffalo changing. We want them to change for the better. We don’t want to see gentrification. We want to see people of different income levels able to live in close proximity, working class households, middle income households, upper income households, all living in close proximity throughout the city of Buffalo, providing a richness of opportunity for all of our children.
Speaker 5: (51:15)
Rob. You’ve heard about other threats at risk, police put out a post as well today that they’re looking into. Any comment from the county executive or Sheriff Garcia at all?
Mark Poloncarz: (51:26)
I can just confirm that our central police services and police agencies were advised of it and they’re looking into it. I believe that information also was, well, I do know the information was also passed on to the FBI, but it is taken very seriously. It’s not being ignored and they’re looking into.
Speaker 6: (51:44)
Has been any kind of … Have they found any threats at all? Do you have any information on that?
Mark Poloncarz: (51:50)
Don’t have any information to show that it’s a founded threat, but it is something that has to be taken seriously. And as the district attorney mentioned earlier, if this is just somebody trying to scare people, this is serious and they can be prosecuted for it.
Speaker 7: (52:04)
Tim, Mayor, have you been in touch with the white house at all? And you have any hopes of what can be accomplished by this threat?
Mayor Brown: (52:12)
We have been in touch with the white house. Numerous calls from the white house, as I mentioned. The director of the FBI called yesterday. I did have the opportunity to speak to Director Ray, the Homeland Security Secretary for the United States of America called I did have the opportunity to speak to him. President Biden’s Intergovernmental Relations Director called. We spoke to her, she has been in contact with members of my staff, planning the President’s trip here. And President Biden himself called me. I have to embarrassingly say I missed that call. I was in church with Council President Pridgen when the President called and I wasn’t answering the phone during the church service.
Speaker 7: (53:14)
Do you have any details, Mayor, on what’s expected tomorrow?
Mayor Brown: (53:18)
I’m not at Liberty to provide any details on the president’s trip, but obviously I am honored. We are all honored and we are appreciative that in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, this attack on our community, that President Biden has chosen to come to Buffalo to try to help this community heal. We have asked for additional resources for this community in a variety of different ways. And I think the fact that the president is coming here shows how seriously he takes the issue of availability of guns, mass shootings, hate speech and the things that we are dealing with out of this tragedy.
Speaker 8: (54:12)
[inaudible 00:54:12] for the police commissioner. Yes, sir.
Speaker 9: (54:15)
Are investigators aware specifically of Discord chat logs that were posted and updated online until around 9:15? Did they get attached?
Joseph Gramaglia: (54:23)
Like I said before, there’s a lot of social media that’s being looked at whether it’s being verified, captured. Some of that takes warrants that have to be served on various social media platforms. Again, they’re working. There’s a lot of people, you see a lot of people here, you see a lot of police officers and other agencies. There are a whole lot of agents and investigators in other places that you do not see that are doing a significant amount of work, as well as the prosecutors working side by side with them to obtain everything that they need to bring a better prosecution.
Speaker 9: (54:56)
And has the suspect said anything to investigate this while he’s in jail?
Joseph Gramaglia: (55:01)
[inaudible 00:55:01] yeah.
Speaker 8: (55:03)
So just being in the last two days and there’s a lot of anger and sadness in the community, but there’s also a lot of anger and fear towards the police and towards government officials and some mistrust. What do you think the community could do to kind of combat some of that? This is a community that clearly is hurting so much right now, but it’s just this kind of fear that exists in this community towards the government. What can you do to try and fix some of that?
Mayor Brown: (55:39)
So all of us are working every day to build trust with this community, to demonstrate that law enforcement cares about this community, that our law enforcement are part of this community. They’re our family, our friends, our neighbors, our church members. And so part of what we have to do after the anger, the pain, the hurt, the frustration, the grief, is stay together. We have to love each other as one community and come together as one community, but I don’t think the two to three block radius, with all due respect, that members of the media have been in since Saturday tells the whole picture of what the community is feeling. Yes, there are absolutely people that feel that. Many people feel that, but there are many people that see the efforts to bring this community together, to grow this community and provide opportunity for every single resident.
Speaker 8: (56:52)
Speaker 10: (56:52)
Yeah. How and why does an active shooter get apprehended still alive? I mean, he was fully armed. Did he get shot at, at any point?
Joseph Gramaglia: (57:05)
Yes. He was shot at multiple times by Officer Salter, a retired police officer shot at him multiple times and was on target with at least one of those rounds. He had heavy plated armor on, he had a tactical helmet on. When our officers are on duty, officers arrived on scene and I’ve watched the video myself. He put that rifle up under his chin, as the officers were coming in. And then he surrendered that rifle. That’s how he was taken.
Mark Poloncarz: (57:33)
Can I just add on something on that? You often hear the argument that a good guy with a gun could take down a bad guy with a gun. Officer Salter was a decorated veteran of the Buffalo Police Force for more than three decades, trained the utmost degree. As the police commissioner noted, got the shots off and it is believed hit the assailant and could not take them down because of the body armor he had. We need to remember that, there were attempts and that’s why I believe it’s appropriate for what the Buffalo PD did because it could have been so much worse. He was already shot once and it had no effect on him.
Speaker 11: (58:12)
Joseph Gramaglia: (58:12)
I want to comment one thing further on that. While that individual was in that vestibule because of the body armor that he had on, he could have easily have retreated back into that store, where there were dozens of other customers in that store fleeing for their lives, which could have then turned that into another barricade and further slaughter. I am absolutely beyond proud of how our police officers handle themselves by taking that individual into custody.
Speaker 8: (58:39)
Do you know how many people were in the store at the time, roughly? I heard you say dozens.
Joseph Gramaglia: (58:43)
A lot. There was a lot of people. We don’t have a full accounting because a lot of people ran, but it was a very busy time in the supermarket.
Speaker 11: (58:51)
All right. Thanks everybody. I appreciate [crosstalk 00:58:54].
Speaker 12: (58:55)
Yeah. I was going to ask a question about the withdrawal of the forensic exam. Can you just explain the significance of that? Why would they request it then withdraw it?
John Flynn: (59:05)
Well, I don’t know. I can’t read the defense attorney’s mind obviously, but I can tell you that at arraignment or quite frankly, at any time in the proceeding, the defense attorney, myself and my attorneys have the right to ask the judge for a forensic. And again, like I said before, the judge can do it by himself or herself as well. So any party there can ask for a forensic. Why they decided to withdraw it? I don’t know. He didn’t tell me why. So I don’t know.
Speaker 12: (59:37)
Is there any significance to that?
John Flynn: (59:39)
Yeah, the significance is that we definitively know that Thursday now is going to happen. There was a possibility that the forensic may not have been done by Thursday. Again, you got to have two doctors examine the individual and for whatever reason, there was a potential that it might not have got done by Thursday. That would’ve delayed Thursday’s hearing. So what this does now is that it puts Thursday at 9:30 on for sure.
Speaker 5: (01:00:12)
Commissioner, comment you made this morning in regards to knowledge that the shooter was going to continue on after this or other plans. Can you restate those for the local media that may not have heard that this morning as well?
Joseph Gramaglia: (01:00:24)
Yeah. I’m not going to elaborate on what those plans were, but we know that his plans, had he gotten out of there successfully, was to leave there and continue on in the carnage that he already began.
Speaker 8: (01:00:34)
All right. Thanks everybody.
Mayor Brown: (01:00:35)
Yeah, that concludes. Thank you everyone.