Man Charged With Threatening Racist Violence Against Buffalo Supermarket
A Washington State man threatened twice this week to unleash racist violence on a Buffalo supermarket, officials said on Friday. The threats came two months after a gunman allegedly driven by white supremacist hatred killed 10 Black people at another store in the city.
The Washington man, Joey David George, made the threats in phone calls to a Tops supermarket on Buffalo’s Elmwood Avenue, saying he planned to use assault rifles and other weapons he had to kill Black people at the store, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Mr. George, 37, of Lynwood, Wash., also said in the calls that if he did not find people to kill at the Elmwood Avenue store, he would go to a second Tops supermarket — the one that was the site of the racist massacre in May — and kill people there, the complaint says. He ranted about a “race war” during his second call to the store, according to the complaint.
“The Buffalo community is trying to heal from the horrific shooting at a Tops grocery store,” Nick Brown, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in announcing the charges against Mr. George. “I cannot imagine the type of fear such hate-fueled threats engendered in those just trying to go about their daily lives.”
Mr. George is charged with two counts of making interstate threats for the calls to the Buffalo store and another in May to a restaurant in San Bruno, Calif., during which he said that he planned to shoot Black or Hispanic patrons, according to the complaint.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Brown’s office said she did not believe any weapons had been recovered when Mr. George was arrested.
Mr. George made an initial court appearance in Federal District Court in Seattle on Friday at which he was advised of the charges and the potential penalties he faced. A detention hearing is scheduled for Monday. In an email, a federal public defender representing him, Mohammad Hamoudi, declined to comment.
The Tops supermarket where the racist rampage happened, on Jefferson Avenue in East Buffalo, reopened to the public last Friday. In interviews, workers described being haunted by memories of the mass shooting as they returned to their jobs there.
The man accused in the killings, Payton Gendron, pleaded not guilty this week to more than two dozen federal hate crime charges stemming from the massacre.
Some East Buffalo residents said in interviews after the attack that they did not plan to return to the Jefferson Avenue store and would shop at other Tops stores in the area if they could arrange transportation. The Elmwood Avenue store is a 15-minute drive away.
The Elmwood Avenue store closed early and was evacuated on Tuesday because of the threats, according to local reports. It was also the target of threats in May by a man who was in the store and made references to the earlier attack before being asked to leave, according to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
In addition to the calls to the Buffalo store and the restaurant in California, Mr. George made similar calls to businesses in Connecticut, Maryland and Washington State in the past year during which he used racial slurs and threatened to shoot customers because of his racial hatred, officials said.
Lola Fadulu contributed reporting.