Racism Fueled Buffalo's Mass Shooting | Crooked Media
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May 16, 2022
What A Day
Racism Fueled Buffalo's Mass Shooting

In This Episode

  • Federal officials are investigating Saturday’s shooting in Buffalo, New York, as both a hate crime and “racially-motivated violent extremism.” The gunman touted the white supremacist theory that immigrants and folks of color are “replacing” white Americans and voters.
  • It’s primary election day in Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Watching these states will help us understand where the Republican and Democratic parties’ priorities lie and the influence of former President Trump.
  • And in headlines: Over 260 Ukrainian soldiers were evacuated from Mariupol, North Korea is experiencing its first-ever COVID outbreak, and McDonald’s plans to withdraw its business from Russia.


Show Notes:



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Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, May 17th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, where we know that at any moment you could accidentally end up at a Travis Barker-Kourtney Kardashian wedding.


Gideon Resnick: Travis and Kourtney, popping out from behind a wall and reciting their vows could happen to anyone, anywhere.


Tre’vell Anderson: Sure. Mainly in Santa Barbara, but also Anytown, USA.


Gideon Resnick: Listeners you have been warned. On today’s show, a look at some of today’s primaries in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Plus, Abbott, the manufacturer of Similac, said it has agreed to fix safety issues at one of its factories.


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, an update on two of the mass shootings that took place over the weekend that we mentioned on yesterday’s show. In Buffalo, New York, ten people were killed and three others wounded by a white supremacist on Saturday at the grocery store Topps in a historically Black neighborhood of the city.


[clip of Garnell Whitfield Jr. What do we tell our father? We don’t even know, he doesn’t know. What do we tell him? How do we tell him the love of his life, his primary caretaker, the person who kept him alive for the last eight years–how do we tell him that she’s gone?


Tre’vell Anderson: That is the voice of Garnell Whitfield Jr., the son of one of the victims, Ruth Whitfield, the 86-year old granny of eight.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. It is absolutely horrific. Yesterday we reported that the gunman is currently in custody, but now there are more details that have come out about the extent to which he planned the shooting. So what can you tell us about that?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So police have confirmed that the gunman drove over 3 hours to Buffalo and even made a visit to the neighborhood the day before the attack, as one might in a reconnaissance mission. The Washington Post also reports that he actually visited Topps back in March. They reviewed a 589-page document of Messages on Discord that was posted online last month by the gunman, that referred to the supermarket as, quote, “attack area one.” The document also describes two other locations in Buffalo as other areas to, quote, “shoot all Blacks” and it included travel paths to each location, the amount of time he needed to kill people in each place, and an estimate that more than three dozen people would be dead by the end of it.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, everything we learn about this is absolutely horrifying. We now know that federal officials are investigating the attack as both a hate crime and, quote, “racially-motivated violent extremism.” So do we have any updates on potential other charges here?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So that is the state of the investigation on the federal side. On the state level, he’s already been charged with first degree murder, to which he somehow pled not guilty, even though he livestreamed the shooting via a GoPro on his helmet. But while his attorneys had initially requested for their clients to undergo a mental competency evaluation, they have since withdrawn the request. That means that the state trial will begin on Thursday, and we’re already beginning to see what the sociopolitical fallout from this shooting, which is now the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. so far this year, will look like because the gunman touted the white supremacist theory that immigrants and folks of color are replacing white Americans and voters. Discourse has begun about how the likes of Tucker Carlson and various GOP lawmakers have contributed to the spreading of such foolishness and/or the unfounded white nationalist and racist beliefs undergirding it.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, in language often not too dissimilar either, I might add.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming even called out her party’s leaders for their role in all of this, tweeting, quote, “The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”


Gideon Resnick: And President Biden and First Lady Biden are traveling to Buffalo this morning to express condolences to the community and the families of the victims. They’re going to be joined by New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. But the shooting has also reignited conversations about gun control. So what are people saying?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So Buffalo’s mayor, Byron Brown, has called for gun control measures, improved mental health treatment, and he said he wanted to see hate speech on social media, quote, “reined in”, citing the 180-page manifesto that has since been attributed to the shooter, in which he says he was radicalized online. And Benjamin Crump, who you’ll likely remember as a leading attorney for many families of victims of police violence over the last five years or so, he is representing the family of Mrs. Ruth, whose son we heard moments ago. Here he is speaking at a news conference surrounded by Whitfield’s family:


[clip of Benjamin Crump] We intend to not only hold accountable this sick, depraved monster for his hatred, hateful act, but we intend to hold those responsible for the root of the hate. The people who curate the hate. The people who inspired hate on websites and Internet services and cable news stations. Those people who radicalize these young people to go out and orchestrate heinous acts of violence, heinous acts of hate.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, to his point, none of this is happening in a vacuum. So by the time we recorded yesterday, we only had information about four of the ten victims. So tell us a little bit more about the others.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So in addition to Mrs. Ruth, the security guard, Aaron Salter, 65-year old Celestine Chaney and 32-year old Roberta Drury. The victims include Pearl Young. She was a 77-year old grandmother who loved singing and dancing and spending time with her family. She was described as a pillar in the community and ran a food pantry in Buffalo’s Central Park neighborhood for 25 years, feeding people every Saturday. There was also Katharine Massey, a 72-year old activist and writer who was described by her sister Barbara as a beautiful soul. Last year, Massey wrote a letter to the editor of the Buffalo News, where she used to work, urging the federal government to act to prevent gun violence. Heyward Patterson, a 67-year old deacon, was also killed. He was known by the name Tenny. He was one of the four killed in the parking lot. He was the taxi driver and waiting in his truck for passengers. There was Margus Morrison, a 52-year old father of three and sneaker collector who was at the grocery store picking up snacks for a weekly movie night with his wife. There was Geraldine Talley, or Auntie Geri as her family called her. She was a 62-year old mother, aunt, and sister from Atlanta who had just arrived in Buffalo to be with her family. She’d been at the store that day with her fiancée, who’d ran to go get orange juice and therefore was able to escape when the shooting began. And then there’s Andre Mackneil, a 53-year old father who was picking up a surprise birthday cake for his son, whose birthday was on Saturday. Andre’s fiancée wrote on Facebook, quote, “Today, my baby was born, but today my soul mate was taken.” And then the three folks injured were 20-year old Zaire Goodman, 50-year old Jennifer Warrington and 55-year old Christopher Braden. Reports are saying that Goodman was the only black person shot who did not die. He and Warrington have been treated and released from the hospital while Braden is still being treated.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, just hearing the regularity of these days and the regularity of the activities and how pedestrian it all was–


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: –it’s a lot to take in. Then we have a quick update on the other mass shooting that took place in Laguna Woods, California on Sunday. What are officials saying there?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, so officials are now saying that the 68-year old gunman who killed one and injured at least four others inside a church on Sunday was motivated for his attack by growing tensions between China and Taiwan. He is a United States citizen from China and had apparently driven to Orange County from Las Vegas on Saturday and targeted the church because it was the nearest the gathering of Taiwanese people he could find. In the church, he glued the doors and even tried to nail one of them shut before shooting, and he placed a Molotov cocktails at the site. The person he killed, Dr. John Cheng, was a 52-year old sports medicine specialist who, before he was shot, had tackled the shooter. Cheng is being credited with sacrificing his life to save others. The shooter, who was hogtied by church parishioners until police arrived, is scheduled to be arraigned today.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Wow. Moving to another story that we’re following today, voters head to the polls in five states as the primary season gets a lot more busy over the next couple of months.


Tre’vell Anderson: Those states are Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. And watching those states will help us understand where the Republican and Democratic Party’s priorities lie and, of course, the influence of former President Trump. So we are going to go through some but not all of these contests. Gideon, let’s start with the big one in Pennsylvania. What’s happening there?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so there are two pretty monumental races that have taken up a lot of the focus. One is for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey. So Pennsylvania is one of just two states where a Republican holds a Senate seat in a state that Biden won in 2020, so it presents an opportunity for a flip in a year that seems like it’s going to be pretty challenging for Democrats. And of course, that’s really important given the current 50-50 Senate split. So on the Democratic side, the current Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has consistently led in polls by a wide margin, as well as fundraising, over fellow candidates Representative Conor Lamb, State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, and a local councilwoman, Alexandria Khalil. And in fact, just over the weekend, Fetterman announced pretty surprisingly that he was recovering from a stroke. So we wish him well, by the way, as this primary wraps up.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. And then how about the Republicans vying for this position?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, Tre’vell. That is where things have been interesting, is how I will put it. I spoke to Jessica Taylor yesterday. She is Cook Political Report’s Senate and Governance Editor who has been following all of this. And she said for a while this was really a two-person race between Dr. Mehmet Oz–yes, that one who Trump endorsed–and David McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO. But recently there has been another candidate that has emerged. Here is Taylor.


Jessica Taylor: The real surprise in the past few weeks has been Kathy Barnette, and she’s been outspent almost 350 to 1 by Oz and McCormick. She’s sort of an activist and MAGA enthusiast. She is an African-American woman. We’ve seen her surging in polls. I think this is people that even though they like Trump, they don’t like his endorsement. So she’s sort of benefiting from that.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And Trump recently criticized Barnette, I think mostly out of concern that she could lose in November. And her record includes tons of public homophobic, Islamophobic views. There’s plenty of receipts in various articles about this. So there’s something potentially going on in Pennsylvania where Trump voters are maybe showing some ambivalence towards Oz and perhaps even wanting a candidate that is further right. We’re going to link to a story that is getting at some of those dynamics.


Tre’vell Anderson: All right. Now let’s talk about the governor’s race there, too. This was really important as Democratic Governor Tom Wolf is term limited and is not running again, and then it took on even larger importance in the wake of that draft opinion leaking from the Supreme Court on Roe versus Wade. What should we know here?


Gideon Resnick: Yes. So the state’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, is running unopposed on the Democratic side. Then for Republicans, things are once again messy. There is a crowded GOP primary where State Senator Doug Mastriano has been leading. Some, but not all of his resume includes trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, campaigning at an event that promoted QAnon, and like Barnette actually, appearing in D.C. on January 6th. Here’s Taylor again with another thing to note about Mastriano In light of the recent Supreme Court news.


Jessica Taylor: He has said that he wants to outlaw abortion without any exceptions. This is a winnable seat for Republicans where it should be in a, given that it’s an open seat, but if he is the nominee, just a myriad of things, Republicans will right this office, actually.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And she went on to say that there are some serious enough concerns that Mastriano could cost Republicans the state legislature possibly if he were at the top of the ticket. Trump endorsed him just this past weekend.


Tre’vell Anderson: That sounds like a reason to put him at the top of the ticket to me. A lot of focus on Pennsylvania, of course, but what else should we be keeping an eye on today?


Gideon Resnick: So a couple more things. In Idaho, the Republican Governor Brad Little is being challenged by his lieutenant governor, Janice McGinn. We’ve spoken about her before because she blocked COVID-19 mandates while Little was out of town at certain stretches during the pandemic. Also, reportedly, she delivered a taped message to a white nationalist meeting, also backed by Trump–[phew]. Then two other Trump endorsements in North Carolina, one for Representative Ted Budd, who is running in the Republican Senate primary and is looking likely to win. And then, of course, we cannot forget Representative Madison Cawthorn. He faces seven Republican challengers and some in the party have been really eager to defeat him, given the unending drumbeat of controversies. That includes Senator Thom Tillis, who has been spending on a candidate to beat him in this race. Trump again, though, has endorsed Cawthorn, despite recently saying he had, quote, “made some foolish mistakes.” Here is Taylor again, though, on why this might not all get decided tonight.


Jessica Taylor: Now, North Carolina is kind of interesting because they have runoffs, but you only have to meet a 30% threshold. There are so many candidates running against him that there’s a good chance that they could split the anti-Cawthorn vote. And that’s the danger. I think if there were just one candidate against him, then it’s far more likely that he might not win.


Gideon Resnick: So that is a very quick look at some of the races today. And if you are a voter in any of those states, plus Kentucky and Oregon, we will have some links in our show notes about resources. Stay tuned for more on all this later in the week, but that is the latest for now. We are going to be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: Ukraine’s military said that its quote unquote “combat mission” was over at a steel mill in the city of Mariupol that has been the site of a drawn out battle with Russian forces. The military, per the Associated Press, said that more than 260 Ukrainian soldiers were evacuated on Monday. They were taken to areas under Russian control in an effort that the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said was to keep them alive. There are still reportedly efforts to get more soldiers out of the mill, the last place where Ukraine is still mounting a defense against Russian troops that have decimated the city. Those that went to Russian-controlled territory could return to Ukraine. In some sort of exchange. Though, this would mark a victory for Russia, The New York Times notes that President Vladimir Putin only heard support for the war from one of his five closest allied countries on Monday, and as his military has focused on gains in Ukraine’s east, that has not brought immediate successes.


Tre’vell Anderson: North Korea reported eight new deaths yesterday amid the country’s first-ever COVID outbreak. North Korean officials have long claimed that the country was COVID-free since the start of the pandemic, but last week they recorded its first cases of the virus. The country’s emergency anti-virus headquarters said that 1.2 million people have fallen ill since late April amid a fever outbreak.


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Tre’vell Anderson: And as we’re recording this, over 500,000 of them are currently under quarantine. Government and health officials have since struggled to contain its spread even after imposing a nationwide lockdown. It’s unclear exactly how many fever cases and deaths are COVID-related due to a shortage of testing supplies in North Korea, but experts say this huge spike in what are likely COVID infections can be attributed to the country’s low vaccination rate. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the military to aid the country’s pandemic response yesterday, tasking them with distributing medicine amid the outbreak. And Monday’s death count brings the total official number of fatalities in North Korea to 50 since its first recorded COVID case. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the COVID death toll reached 1 million in recent days, just two years after the pandemic began.


Gideon Resnick: It’s astonishing to hear every time. It’s unbelievable. Thus far, the nationwide baby formula shortage has been a formula for a bad time. But on Monday, one of the major manufacturers responsible for the formula shortage announced an agreement had been made with the US Food and Drug Administration to bring factory operations back online after closing more than three months ago due to safety concerns. The closure of Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis Michigan factory by the FDA, as well as a voluntary product recall that was initiated by the company, is largely credited for causing the current supply issue, which has left many parents scrambling to provide food for their newborns. The February shutdown came when an FDA inspection found the plant had not maintained proper sanitary conditions after two infants died from ingesting their formula. With the cooperation of the FDA, the company hopes to safely resume operations within the next two weeks. And as a result of years of industry consolidation, 90% of the formula supply in the U.S. is controlled by only four companies, which is how one factory’s closure and recall has led to a weeks-long crisis for so many families. While the FDA’s involvement is definitely a good sign, we’ve still got some tough weeks ahead. Once production resumes, it’ll take 6 to 8 weeks before we start seeing restocked product on grocery shelves–ay yi.


Tre’vell Anderson: Russia, formerly known as the USSR, will soon be formally known as a place to eat McDouble in car. After temporarily closing operations in March in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the fast food behemoth announced it would withdraw business from the country entirely, with plans to sell off their 850 existing locations to a local buyer. The franchise will also de-arch the locations, which is McIndustry speak for removing all name, logo, and branding from the locations. So it’s safe to say employees of any ensuing burger restaurants will also be forbidden to say they personally know Grimace and Mayor McCheese. In a statement, the company vowed to continue to pay its Russian employees until a sale had been completed, and they would negotiate to keep staff employed with any potential buyers–which to me is what the Golden Arches truly stand for. When McDonald’s opened its first location in Moscow in 1982, it symbolized to many an end to decades of Cold War hostility. With McDonald’s current economic withdrawal, relations between Russia and the United States have grown cold once more–like the three French fries that get lost under the napkins, or a ten-piece McNugget left on the counter for more than 5 minutes.


Gideon Resnick: I would eat both, and I would also, at this point, eat the McDonald’s that’s been stored in some of those Russian fridges for some time.


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t think you should be doing that. But you know what? You’re grown. You can do what you want, Gideon.


Gideon Resnick: I’m just saying. Tre’vell, if you had the choice of no McDonald’s or of frozen preserved McDonald’s that you could microwave and have a 50% McDonald’s experience–the option’s not so bad.


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, no shade, but McDonald’s food don’t really taste as best when it reheats. I’m just–


Gideon Resnick: It doesn’t, no. It does not. A significant quality drop for sure. And that’s also been in there for months at this point. That article is very old.


Tre’vell Anderson: Right.


Gideon Resnick: Those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, never take the McRib for granted, and tell your friends to listen.


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading, and not just about the Russian black market for frozen Big Macs like Gideon, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And always eat the bag fries!


Gideon Resnick: You have to.


Tre’vell Anderson: They’re usually the best.


Gideon Resnick: They have, like a different structural integrity that has led them to fall out of the actual bag of fries, which means they’re great.


Tre’vell Anderson: Exactly. Just get you some extra barbecue sauce, and it’s everything, honey.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.