Buffalo shooting: Probe approved over Wendy Rogers' comments on Buffalo shooting

The Arizona Senate’s ethics committee voted Wednesday to formally investigate a Republican lawmaker’s online comments that appeared to blame the federal government for the recent massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

The panel was directed by the full Senate last week to look into an online post Sen. Wendy Rogers made the night a young white man went into the market in a predominately Black neighborhood and fatally shot 10 people. Authorities say the gunman had posted a racist screed before the May 14 attack.

Rogers, who is in her first term, has built a national profile among the far right with inflammatory rhetoric and vociferous support for former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Democrats wanted to expel Rogers, who was just censured by the Senate on March 1. That action came after she spoke at a white nationalist gathering and said that her political opponents should face a "newly built set of gallows."

As news of the mass shooting in Buffalo was just becoming known, Rogers tweeted: "Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo."

Many in both parties took that tweet to mean that Rogers was blaming the attack on the federal government, especially in light of Rogers’ history of embracing conspiracy theories.

Rogers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. She did not comment when the Senate debated the ethics referral while she sat at her Senate floor desk last week.

The ethics panel ordered its attorneys to review the online posts and their context. Rogers, who represents Flagstaff and a wide swath of northern Arizona, will also be interviewed. She will have a week after the report is complete to provide a response.

The panel did not set a deadline for the investigation’s completion, but Senate lawyer Chris Kleminich told reporters that he expects the process to take "weeks, not months." He said he expected Rogers to cooperate with his review.

The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, could decide on discipline ranging from a formal censure to expulsion once the report is complete. It could also drop the matter with no action.

Statement from Wendy Rogers:

In a 24 to 3 vote today, the Arizona State Senate passed a motion to launch an ethics investigation regarding a comment I made on social media. That motion only came after Senate Democrat Leadership revealed minutes before floor proceedings were to begin, that they were going to vote to expel me from office. Their motion to expel would have come without any sort of investigation or due process.

Sadly, my comment was taken completely out of context and became a false narrative that's now the focal point of a firestorm created by certain race-obsessed members of the media. Unfortunately, our Democrat members of the Senate are now turning this issue into a political tool and are continuing to perpetuate this erroneous message in an effort to foment division within our party.

Let me be very clear: I do not condone violent crime or racism. My heart breaks for those who lost their lives as well as for their families in this weekend's shooting in Buffalo, New York. I pray justice is brought to the perpetrator. The person responsible for this heinous crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I denounce this tragic act as well as any and all other violent crimes that are spreading into communities across our country.

I'm grateful to our Republican Leadership Team for fighting to give me due process in this matter, and I am certain that once the facts have been analyzed, I will be vindicated.

Statement from the Arizona Democratic Party:

Following this weekend’s act of terrorism in Buffalo, New York where a white man murdered 10 people and injured 3 others, and the revelation that the shooter was motivated by racist conspiracy theories pushed by GOP extremist Wendy Rogers, Arizona Senate Democrats called on their Republican colleagues to join them in voting expel Senator Rogers from her elected office. Of the 13 people shot, 11 were Black, and a detailed manifesto was found connected to the shooter that documented his belief in the "Great Replacement Theory" as motivation for the violence. 
Not only was Rogers’ initial reaction to this horrific incident to spew yet another conspiracy that the shooter was a federal agent, but she has a documented history of pushing and defending the racist "Great Replacement Theory." In March, the Senate took a bipartisan vote to censure Rogers for her involvement with white nationalists, and today by a vote of 24-3 the Arizona Senate voted to hold, yet another, ethics investigation into Roger’s hateful rhetoric. 
Following the Senate vote, ADP Chairwoman Raquel Terán and ADLCC Chairwoman Rebecca Rios released the following statement demanding stronger action: 
"The behavior of Wendy is downright abhorrent, and the fact that she is able to remain an elected official and use her platform to incite violence is unacceptable. Arizona families will not be safe so long as people like Wendy remain in office. The failure of the GOP, Senate President Fann, and Governor Ducey to hold her accountable and take action against her shows that their loyalties lie not with Arizonans, but with violent extremists. Arizona Democrats will not sit idly by and be complacent as Wendy continues to endanger the lives of Arizonans and Americans. Hate has no place in Arizona, and Wendy Rogers has no place in our State Senate."

Buffalo supermarket shooting: What do we know so far?

On Saturday afternoon, a white gunman in military gear attacked shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 Black people. Another Black person and two white people were wounded. Officials are investigating the shooting as a hate crime.

What happened?

A white 18-year-old wearing body armor and livestreaming with a helmet camera opened fire at around 2:30 p.m. Saturday outside Tops Friendly Market. It’s a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo.

The gunman broadcast the shooting to a small audience on Twitch, which said it removed the video from its platform in less than two minutes.

According to police, the gunman began shooting in the parking lot. Inside, he exchanged gunfire with a security guard, who was killed, before stalking through the aisles and shooting shoppers.

At one point, he trained his weapon on a white person cowering behind a checkout counter, but says "Sorry!" and doesn’t shoot, as seen in portions of the livestream video circulating online.

Who is the suspected gunman?

Police have identified the gunman as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York. Conklin is a small town about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Buffalo, not far from the Pennsylvania state line.

Officials said the rifle Gendron used in the attack was purchased legally but the magazines he used for ammunition were not allowed to be sold in New York.

After the shooting, Gendron appeared before a judge in a paper medical gown and was arraigned on a murder charge. He has pleaded not guilty.

A document circulated widely online seemingly outlines Gendron’s racist, anti-immigrant and antisemitic beliefs. Among them was a desire to drive all people not of European descent from the U.S. The document seemed to draw inspiration from the gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

Authorities said Gendron had researched local demographics and conducted reconnaissance as part of his efforts to target Black people.

The document also says Gendron considered killing more people after the supermarket, including people on the streets and perhaps another store.

Authorities say that Gendron had made a "general" threat at Susquehanna Valley High School last June that resulted in state police being called. He was 17 at the time and underwent a mental health evaluation at a hospital.

Who are the victims?

Police said the 13 victims, including the wounded, ranged in age from 20 to 86.

The 10 dead include Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer working as a security guard at the store. Salter fired multiple shots at the assailant, striking his body armor at least once, although the bullet did not pierce. Officials called him a hero who saved lives by running toward danger. A local resident said he cared about the community and looked after the store.

Ruth Whitfield, 86, was picking up groceries after visiting her husband at a nursing home, as she did every day. She was the mother of retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, who told The Buffalo News she was "a mother to the motherless" and "a blessing to all of us." Whitfield attributed his mother’s strength and commitment to family to her religious faith.

Katherine Massey, 72, was "a beautiful soul" who was killed while shopping, sister Barbara Massey said.

Heyward Patterson, 67, was a deacon at a nearby church. He’d gone by the church’s soup kitchen before heading to the supermarket, where he offered an informal taxi service and would drive people home with their bags.

The other people killed in the shooting were Roberta A. Drury, 32, Margus D. Morrison, 52, Andre Mackneil, 53, Geraldine Talley, 62, Celestine Chaney, 65, and Pearl Young, 77. The injured included Zaire Goodman, 20, Jennifer Warrington, 50, and Christopher Braden, 55.

What do we know about the rifle used in the shooting?

Gendron bought the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting at a store in Endicott, New York, within the past few months, according to the store’s owner.

Robert Donald, owner of Vintage Firearms, told ABC News and The New York Times that he has records of the purchase, but does not remember selling the rifle to Gendron. He said Gendron passed an instant background check on the day he bought the weapon. He said federal agents informed him that the rifle he sold to Gendron was used in the shooting.

"I mean, who would do this," Donald told ABC News. "I’ve been open since 1993 and this is the first time there has been any kind of a problem."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.