“[O]ne of the deadliest mass shootings of the year” occurred last Saturday in Buffalo, New York in a predominantly Black neighborhood at the Tops Friendly Market. White supremacist Payton Gendron is the suspect in custody and is being charged with first-degree murder. Gendron allegedly drove over 320km to the supermarket to conduct his crime, and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Gendron’s goal was “to take as many Black lives as possible.”
Despite the fact that Gendron had “previously threatened to shoot up his high school…reportedly planned the attack on the social messaging platform Discord,” and that authorities found a 180-page manifesto referencing the Great Replacement Theory and other white nationalist rhetoric, Gendron’s relatives are attempting to place the blame on COVID-19.
Sandra Komoroff, a cousin of Gendron’s mom Pamela, spoke to the New York Post on Monday, saying “I have no idea how he could have gotten caught up in this. I blame it on COVID… He was very paranoid about getting COVID, extremely paranoid, to the point that — his friends were saying — he would wear the hazmat suit to school.”
Komoroff said that Gendron would attend family functions with a respirator mask on. Despite being vaccinated and Gendron’s diligence, the family was sure he wouldn’t catch the virus. And then he tested positive for COVID just a few weeks ago.
“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 [as] when you see their face,” she said.
Komoroff continued, “It is a good family, a very good family. It’s unconscionable to me what happened. They’re very average people, God-fearing…I don’t understand the racist thing, because my family is the farthest thing from racist. I’ve never heard a racist comment from him, from his parents. It’s almost like he just snapped. Something in him broke…The whole family is in shock.”
Notwithstanding the evidence found thus far that undoubtedly demonstrates Gendron’s racist motivations,
Sandra’s husband, Dave Komoroff has also bought into the same beliefs as his wife, stating, “In theory, [COVID] could have affected what they call the lizard brain — the part of the brain that controls aggression…I can’t say it’s impossible, but maybe that would happen one out of so many millions of times.”
“He’s very smart…I don’t know where he went online — the dark web, or wherever — but apparently, he got into some nasty stuff. He’s smart enough to get into dangerous stuff online, which maybe the average person wouldn’t know how to get into,” Dave Komoroff continued. “I mean, I’m trying to figure it out myself…I would think that this family checks all the boxes. I’m trying to figure out the dysfunction, and I just can’t. We were at his graduation. He’s an 18-year-old kid.”
The Komoroffs said Gendron wanted to be an engineer like his parents.
“I just don’t see how this happened, but apparently this has been germinating for a long time,” Dave Komoroff said.
As the Gendrons are being portrayed by the media as your “average American family,” the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is “disturbed by [the] unconscious bias displayed in Buffalo Shooting Coverage,” stating “there is still much work to be done in how newsrooms report on issues affecting the Black community and how unconscious bias still plays a role in the way suspects and victims are portrayed in the media.”
The statement continued, “All too often, white suspects are treated much more carefully in the media than Black victims. This must end now. We ask…[media outlets] to take time to explore whether their coverage helps to portray Black victims as a threat while portraying white suspects as unthreatening.”
The NABJ cited the difference in reporting referencing the 2014 murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson. Brown, who was also 18 at the time of his murder, was described by Associate Press as an “18-year-old Black man.” This past weekend, Gendron, was described as a “white teenager.”
Gendron was arraigned on a murder charge the same say as the shooting, and federal prosecutors said they are contemplating hate-crime charges.