Buffalo gunman Payton Gendron
Buffalo gunman Payton Gendron REUTERS

The US Justice Department on Wednesday announced federal hate crimes charges against Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old who shot dead 10 African Americans at a Buffalo, New York supermarket in May, AFP reported.

The charges say Gendron was motivated by racist hate when, on May 14, he took a semi-automatic assault weapon to a Tops grocery store in a largely Black neighborhood of Buffalo and killed 10 people, while wounding three others.

They said he was driven by belief in a conspiracy theory called "The Great Replacement" -- that white people's lives and communities are threatened by minorities -- a view Gendron espoused in a lengthy document posted online before his attack.

"Gendron's motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks," the charges said, according to AFP.

He planned his attack in detail for months, according to the charges, and he specifically targeted a heavily African-American community, mapping out the popular Tops supermarket there.

He said in his manifesto that he intended to "Kill as many Blacks as possible."

The federal hate crime charges carry the death penalty or up to life in prison.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the charges on a visit to Buffalo, where he met with family members of those killed.

On June 1, Gendron was charged by New York state with domestic terrorism and ten counts of first degree murder.

He had earlier pleaded not guilty to a single count of first-degree murder.

Prior to the shooting, Gendron uploaded a manifesto to the internet, warning of “white genocide”, citing low birthrates among people of European heritage across the globe, and higher birthrates among non-white populations.

A document posted online by the suspect detailed his initial plans weeks before the shooting.

According to the document, obtained by the Washington Post, Gendron refers to the local Tops supermarket as “attack area 1,” also noting two other areas in the city where he can “shoot all blacks.”