Several major tech companies were hit with a massive wrongful death lawsuit over last year’s racist grocery store massacre in Buffalo, New York, for allegedly feeding the convicted shooter “racist, antisemitic, and white supremacist propaganda.”
The 144-page suit from survivor Latisha Rogers and three victims’ families was filed in New York state court on Friday. The complaint names Facebook parent company Meta, Twitch owner Amazon, Google parent Alphabet ― which owns YouTube ― and Snapchat owner Snap, as well as Discord, Reddit and hate-filled website 4Chan. Also named are a body armor manufacturer, a firearms store, a gun accessories manufacturer and the shooter’s parents.
The shooter, Payton Gendron, killed 10 Black people and wounded three others at a Tops grocery store in May of last year. He pleaded guilty to charges including domestic terrorism motivated by hate in November, and was sentenced to life without parole in February.
Gendron notably penned a racist manifesto prior to the shooting in which he touted the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which had been pushed into the mainstream by then-Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, and said he chose the store for the shooting because it was in a predominantly Black community.
Community members pay respects outside the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, in July 2022.
Buffalo civil attorney John Elmore filed the complaint on behalf of the victims’ families along with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Social Media Victims Law Center.
Matthew Bergman, founding attorney of the Social Media Victims Law Center, said in a statement that Gendron “was motivated to commit his heinous crime by racist, antisemitic, and white supremacist propaganda fed to him by social media companies.”
“These posts led him down a rabbit hole of increasingly radical sites, where he was indoctrinated in white supremacist replacement theory and violent accelerationism,” Bergman added. “This horrible crime was neither an accident nor coincidence, but rather the foreseeable result of social media companies’ intentional decision to maximize user engagement over public safety.”
The three victims whose families filed the suit are Andre Mackneil, a 53-year-old father of five who was buying a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son’s birthday party when he was killed; Katherine “Kat” Massey, 72, a retired teacher; and Heyward Patterson, 67, a deacon at State Tabernacle Church of God and a retired security guard.
The families’ suit comes a day after New York Attorney General Letitia James separately sued the gun accessories manufacturer, Mean Arms, for its sale to the shooter of a magazine with an “easily” removable lock that was used in the crime, according to a press release.
Friday’s filing arrives two days before the one-year anniversary of the massacre.
During a press conference Friday morning, family members of victims took turns speaking about the impact of the shooting and the responsibility that falls on social media companies. Barbara Massey-Mapps, sister of Kat Massey, said simply that this week has “sucked.”
Heartshattering. Leandra Elliot the daughter of Andre Mackneil, will experience her 1st Mother’s Day without her father.
She found out she was pregnant when she was burying her father. @WGRZpic.twitter.com/mvsDVYLzsL
— Robert Hackford (@Robert_Hackford) May 12, 2023
The lawsuit argues that Gendron wasn’t raised by a racist family and didn’t live in a “radically polarized community,” but that he was exposed to “racist, antisemitic and violence-promoting material” that “caused his radicalization [and] motivated him to commit racial violence.”
Massey-Mapps told ABC News that she hopes “something will come out of” the lawsuit.
“Every day or every few days, all you hear about is a mass shooting,” Massey-Mapps told ABC. “You’ve got to start somewhere, in order for them to get the message. These big companies only know one thing, money. So, you’ve got to hurt them. How many people do you want to see dead?”
Read the lawsuit below: