According to two new lawsuits filed on Wednesday on behalf of the survivors and family of a victim of the Buffalo, New York, Tops supermarket massacre in May 2022, the shooter was “addicted” to social media sites that “shepherded him along the path of radicalization.”
Everytown Law, the litigation branch of the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, filed the supplemental lawsuits in Buffalo state court.
They assert that Reddit, YouTube, and Google, along with Alphabet Inc. and YouTube’s parent company, led to Payton Gendron’s “radicalization,” who was 18 years old when he opened fire at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on May 14, 2022. All of the ten fatalities were Black, and three other people suffered injuries. Authorities claimed that Gendron selected a victim online before travelling 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York.
“The kind of design features and recommendation algorithms used by these websites have a well-documented tendency to addict teenagers, amplify hateful conspiracy theories, radicalize young men to extremism, and promote gun violence. This is precisely what happened here,” Everytown Law wrote.
“The shooter was addicted to these websites, and these websites radicalized him against the Black community and equipped him with the knowledge he needed to execute his horrific plans,” according to the complaints. “These websites’ design features and algorithms shepherded him along the path of radicalization and taught him how to obtain military-grade armaments like his body armor, modify his weapon to enable its semi-automatic firing capacity, and conduct a military-style assault operation with deadly efficiency.”
Wayne Jones, the 65-year-old son of Celestine Chaney, who was one of the 10 individuals killed, filed the first lawsuit on his behalf. In the second lawsuit, 16 survivors claim that even though they were not shot, being there at the event caused them to experience “lasting harm and severe emotional distress.”
“I still live with those images every day. It’s a part of my life. For the rest of my life, I will have it in my mind,” Fragrance Harris Stanfield, who was working that day at Tops, said at a news conference.
Additionally named in the accusations are Vintage Firearms, which sold Gendron an AR-15-style rifle, MEAN Arms LLC., which created the weapon’s simple magazine release mechanism, and RMA Armament, which created and offered the shooter’s combat-grade body armour.
The lawsuits argue that YouTube and its parent companies “contributed to his radicalization and helped him acquire information he needed to equip himself for and carry out the mass shooting, including video instruction on how to remove the magazine lock, defeat and kill an armed security guard in a gunfight, and conduct a deadlier mass shooting.”
They further charge that Reddit Inc. “operates a defectively designed social media product that the shooter used, became radicalized on, and gave him the information he needed to equip himself for the mass shooting, including about RMA Armament’s combat-style body armor.”
The claims also claim that Paul and Pamela Gendron, Gendron’s parents, “abdicated their duties” by failing to effectively address their son’s history of unsettling behaviour.
“We aim to change the corporate and individual calculus so that every company and every parent recognizes they have a role to play in preventing future gun violence,” said Eric Tirschwell, executive director of Everytown Law.
After pleading guilty to crimes like murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate, Gendron is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of release. Justice Department authorities are still debating whether to seek the death penalty in the event that Gendron is found guilty in a federal criminal hate crimes case.
Several lawsuits have been submitted in response to the incident. Victims’ kin filed a lawsuit last month alleging that tech and social media behemoths like Facebook, Amazon, and Google are to blame for radicalising Gendron.