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Attorneys for survivors of Buffalo shooting and family of victim file lawsuits against shooter’s parents, gun companies and social media companies


By Rob Frehse, CNN

(CNN) — Attorneys representing survivors and a family member of one of the victims who died in the racist mass shooting in a Buffalo grocery store last year have filed two lawsuits against social media companies, the shooter’s parents and gun companies alleging they facilitated and equipped the gunman, according to court documents.

The lawsuits allege the parents of then-18-year-old Payton S. Gendron “abdicated their duties,” failing to intervene despite awareness of their son’s mental health problems or take any steps to limit their son’s access to at least one gun.

The civil lawsuits, filed Tuesday in Erie County State Supreme Court in New York, allege a gun magazine lock manufacturer, the business that sold Gendron the gun used in the shooting and a company that sold Gendron body armor were all negligent and contributed to the shooting.

Gendron was sentenced to life in prison in February for carrying out the mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Tops Friendly Markets in East Buffalo on May 14, 2022. All of the victims killed were Black.

“I did a terrible thing that day,” he said at the sentencing hearing. “I shot and killed people because they were Black. Looking back now, I can’t believe I actually did it. I believed what I read online and acted out of hate. I know I can’t take it back, but I wish I could, and I don’t want anyone to be inspired by me and what I did.”

Two social media companies, YouTube and Reddit, are also named as defendants in the lawsuits, along with Gendron’s parents and Google.

The social media companies “transformed and addicted” Gendron, preparing him for the attack, the lawsuits allege. Gendron repeatedly cited in his diary the “consuming influence Reddit and YouTube had on him, including in the weeks leading up to his attack at Tops,” according to the lawsuits.

The lawsuits seek punitive and compensatory damages.

A spokesperson for YouTube told NBC News, “We have the deepest sympathies for the victims and families of the horrific attack at Tops grocery store in Buffalo last year. Through the years, YouTube has invested in technology, teams, and policies to identify and remove extremist content. We regularly work with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to share intelligence and best practices.”

CNN has reached out to the social media companies, YouTube’s parent company Google and the gun companies and attorneys for Gendron’s parents for comment.

Accountability is needed, survivors say

One of the lawsuits was filed on behalf of Wayne Jones, whose mother Celestine Chaney died in the shooting.

“Just as the Shooter is being held to account criminally for his actions, the defendants named in this lawsuit must answer for the critical roles they played in facilitating this reprehensible mass shooting,” according to the lawsuit.

The attack “could have been prevented,” Jones said in a press release from nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety on Wednesday.

“The violent actions of a white supremacist who targeted my community ripped my mother away from me, and her nine grandchildren,” Jones said. “This racist attack could have been prevented; numerous companies and individuals had the power to stop it from happening. My only hope is that this lawsuit can raise awareness and hold them accountable so that another gunman can’t inflict the same kind of terror and incalculable damage.”

Fragrance Harris Stanfield, one of 16 shooting survivors in the second lawsuit, said she hopes the individuals and companies are held accountable.

“I’ll never forget the sounds of gunshots echoing throughout Tops on what felt like a typical Saturday afternoon when, in the blink of an eye, my grocery store turned into a war zone,” Harris Stanfield said in the press release from Everytown.

“While I escaped without a bullet wound, the terror that the shooter inflicted on me and other survivors will live with us forever. It’s my hope that this lawsuit can help to not only hold the individuals and entities accountable who allowed the shooter to carry out his racist rampage, but that we can also change the conversation around who constitutes a victim following tragedies like this one.”

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