BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Republican congressman looking to become governor of New York is calling for the return of the death penalty.

Lee Zeldin’s (NY-1) comments came Sunday after 10 people were killed and three others were injured in Buffalo in an act of white supremacist terrorism.

“NY must bring back the death penalty!” Zeldin wrote on Twitter. “I’m calling on Hochul to act. We won’t let this go. Killing police officers & first responders, fatal hate crimes like yesterday’s attack in Buffalo, homicides w/ multiple victims, & many other crimes should be eligible for the death penalty.”

Jose Saldana, Director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign, released the following statement in opposition to Zeldin’s comments:

“We are devastated, saddened, and infuriated by the white supremacist attack on the Black community in Buffalo. We stand in love, support, and solidarity with the people and families deeply harmed by this horrific act and the cumulative impact that racism has had on generations of Black people. We must all eradicate white supremacy from our state’s systems, institutions, and culture. Importantly, we also call on lawmakers to take action to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the families and community targeted in this vicious act of hate. Reinstating the death penalty or expanding the use of life without parole sentences in response to this attack will accomplish neither. As is the case today, those condemned to death by execution or death by incarceration will be mostly Black and Brown New Yorkers. These extreme sanctions have never kept our communities safe. They only reinforce racism in our state and undermine rather than promote community safety and healing. Instead, our state’s political leaders must protect and empower Black and Brown communities by tearing down systems of racial oppression and by providing us with the material resources we need and deserve. All love and power to the people of Buffalo.”

Jose Saldana

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Eddie Mays was the last person to ever be executed in New York, nearly six decades ago in 1963.

The Columbia University Center for Justice says the death penalty was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972. Before this change was made, they say New York ranked second in most executions of any state over more than three centuries.

In 1995, the Death Penalty Information Center says former Governor George Pataki signed legislation to reinstate capital punishment, but it was declared unconstitutional by the New York State Court of Appeals in 2004.

“Those who commit fatal hate crimes, acts of terrorism, and other extreme violence should be brought to justice, and in some cases, the only fitting form of justice is the death penalty,” Zeldin says.

According to a recent WIVB/The Hill/Emerson College poll, Zeldin is leading in support among Republican gubernatorial candidates, with 26%.

Additionally, 84% of New Yorkers in the same poll said they are “very or somewhat concerned about gun violence.”

It is possible the accused gunman from Saturday’s mass shooting at a Buffalo Tops Markets could receive the death penalty, however, since the death penalty is not in effect in New York, the case would have to be prosecuted federally for that to happen.


Below are some links and resources to support people in Buffalo, provided by RAPP (Release Aging People in Prison) Campaign:

Donate to Black Love Resists in the Rust’s Mental Health and Food Support fund here: https://donate-usa.keela.co/mental-health-and-food-support 

Drop off food at the Rooted in Love Community Fridge at 347 East Ferry Street, and/or make a donation to the cause: https://rootedinloveinc.com/donate-to-our-cause/ 

Drop-off fresh produce, milk, eggs, cheese, formula, baby food, juice, water, labeled cook meals (no raw meat) to the Buffalo Community Fridge at 257 E. Ferry St.

Donate to Feed Buffalo, a Black woman-led food pantry that provides access to free locally-sourced, healthy, and halal food: https://www.feedbuffalo.org/ 

Donate to Every Bottom Covered, a Black-led Diaper Bank located on the East Side of Buffalo: https://www.everybottomcovered.org/ 

Donate catered food by emailing phylicia@blackloveresistsintherust.org