After a mass shooting took the lives of 10 people at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket Saturday, the local county sheriff called it a "straight-up racially motivated hate crime."
On Sunday, the alleged actions of the 18-year-old white gunman echoed inside a Palm Beach County church.
"I was telling my congregation today that the devil's job is to keep people in a state of confusion. God created everyone equal but the enemy likes to put things between us," said Bishop Melvin Pinkney of the New Life Zion Temple, an evangelical Christian congregation in Lake Worth Beach.
Original story: At least 10 dead, 3 hurt in Buffalo supermarket shooting
Buffalo authorities say the supermarket shooter, who wore military gear and a helmet camera to livestream his crimes, targeted the store for its predominantly Black clientele. Writings attributed to suspect Payton Gendron reveal a devotion to white supremacist dogma including the so-called "great replacement" theory, which claims minorities - mainly Black people, Jewish people and immigrants - are conspiring to replace white people.
"It's a ludicrous and crazy theory," said Pinkney, who believes it's important to be aware that such false beliefs exist. "These things have got to be brought out to light because more of these kinds of things are going to happen."
He cites the case of the admitted white supremacist gunman who massacred nine Black people during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.
"We go to church and have to be cautious. A white brother walks in to join us and now we have to think, 'Are they here for the good or are they here for the bad?'" Pinkney said.
He believes the periods of isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic era have helped fuel hatred.
"This is what the pandemic has done. It has isolated people and built up more anger toward other nationalities and races," he said. "The Bible says when people come together, we can do anything. We have to come together, people of every color. We cannot segregate ourselves."
'This heinous attack demonstrates the urgent need to denounce and address extremism'
The Buffalo shooting reveals a challenge for communities at large, said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.
"I am deeply saddened about the horrific shooting that took the lives of so many innocent members of the Buffalo community yesterday," Frankel said Sunday in a prepared statement. "Good people must work together to stop hate-fueled and racist crime."
Mass shootings like Saturday's massacre at Buffalo's Tops Friendly Market have targeted a range of communities across the country. In August 2019, a 21-year-old white gunman drove nearly 12 hours to El Paso to kill Mexican shoppers at Walmart, leaving 23 dead. In October 2018, a 49-year-old white gunman attacked a landmark Pittsburgh synagogue, yelling "All Jews must die" during Sabbath services, killing 11.
The Buffalo shooting was yet another in a wave of violent attacks fueled by racist and anti-Semitic motives, said leaders of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) locally and nationally.
"This heinous attack demonstrates the urgent need to denounce and address extremism," said Sarah Emmons, regional director of ADL Florida. "The perpetrator espoused white supremacist and anti-Semitic views online, views we've also heard shared by politicians and media personalities. We must not allow the normalization of these biased and violence-inducing philosophies."
The ADL notes hate crimes are rising across the country. In 2020, hate crimes against Black people spiked 43 percent from the previous year, the organization reports. That year, the ADL recorded 109 hate crimes in Florida, most of them fueled by "bias against individuals based on their race/ethnicity/ancestry."
In Buffalo, hateful views were accompanied by gunfire from a Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle, one that was legally purchased, authorities said.
One national organization that advocates for stronger gun-violence prevention laws blamed the gun industry's "embrace of militarization and heightened lethality" for contributing to Saturday's mass shooting.
"Once again, a military-bred assault rifle equipped with a high-capacity ammunition magazine was used for the exact purpose for which it was designed: to kill and injure as many people as quickly and efficiently as possible," Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, said in a released statement. "In a nation where anyone with a fairly clean record, a credit card, and a self-defined 'mission' can outfit themselves for war, including body armor and other tactical gear, these horrific attacks will continue."
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Buffalo shooting: Florida leaders call for unity in wake of attack