BINGHAMTON, NY (WETM) – The Broome County District Attorney held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to “set the record straight” about details of the Buffalo shooting suspect’s mental health evaluation last year and shied away from classifying the shooting as domestic terrorism.
In the press conference, DA Michael Korchak, relayed that the thoughts and prayers of the Broome County District Attorney’s Office were with the people of Buffalo and the families of the victims of the senseless mass shooting on Saturday.
Korchak addressed what he called “misinformation” on social media about an incident in 2021 involving the suspect, Payton Gendron, though Korchak didn’t mention him by name. Korchak explained that in school, the suspect made “disturbing” comments about murder and suicide that were later reported to the Susquehanna School District and then to New York State Police. Korchak said that no direct threats were made to the school or students, there was no mention of firearms, and the suspect said he was joking when making the comments.
However, Korchak said that because the Buffalo shooting is so recent, officials don’t currently have all the details on the suspect’s psychiatric evaluation at Binghamton General Hospital that stemmed from the school incident. He clarified that the suspect was found not to be dangerous at the time of the evaluation last year and therefore could not be detained.
Individuals in his office were aware of the 2021 incident, according to Korchak. He said that the suspect fell through the cracks of the system because after graduating in 2021, Gendron didn’t have any follow-up supervision.
To address domestic terrorism in the local community, Korchak said he will “have to follow up with the Governor”, following Hochul’s Wednesday announcement. But he didn’t definitely label the Buffalo massacre as domestic terrorism, saying in his own view, it’s just murder and crime. “To me, terrorism is flying planes into buildings,” Korchak said.
“I don’t know as racial bias… it’s not limited to Broome County,” Korchak said. He explained that Broome County doesn’t have many racial bias cases, and it’s important to educate the community. But when it comes to this case and the suspect’s alleged manifesto being authored in Broome County, “That’s where you’re battling the First Amendment because everyone has the right to be stupid,” he said.
“It keeps me up at night every time someone posts bail and is out on a violent felony,” Korchak said. He said he has not personally spoken with the suspect or his parents.
“Everyone is going to be questioned” that had any contact with the suspect, Korchak said. He said he doesn’t currently know if anyone knew the shooting might happen, but anyone who had contact “is someone we want to talk to.”
He stated that he had reached out to the Erie County District Attorney John Flynn to offer assistance in any way needed with this criminal prosecution. He did note that he is limited on what he is able to discuss, however, he would like to set the record straight on false information that has been fed to the media.
Korchak also said that he could not discuss the facts of the current investigation.