Biden Condemns Shooting As Racially Motivated White Supremacy But Misses Mental Health System Failure

During his Washington, DC. speech, Sunday at the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service on Capitol Hill, President Biden personally reacted to the to Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. He stated-

“We’re still gathering the facts, but already the Justice Department has stated publicly that it is investigating the matter as a hate crime,” Biden added that it was a “Racially motivated act of white supremacy and violent extremism.”

-President Joe Biden

He was referring to the ten people, shot and killed by a gunman, in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo NY, who were at a local grocery store. In the shooting spree, three others were also wounded before the perpetrator surrendered to police. Eleven of the victims were black and two were white.  Truly a tragedy of epic proportion.

Everyone is rushing to the conclusion that this was only racially motivated – but was it?

The gunman, identified as  Payton Gendron, is an 18-year-old with a history of mental issues who was detained by police after he discussed openly last year pre-graduation from Susquehanna Valley High School, outside Binghamton, that his plans were to commit a murder-suicide post-graduation. According to the NY Times, Gendron claimed to be joking, but the state police were summoned to investigate.  

Under a state mental health law Gendron, then 17, was taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation in a hospital but was apparently released within a couple of days. Two weeks later, he graduated and fell off investigators’ radar. Then almost a year later, wearing body armor with camouflage gear, and armed with an assault weapon, he burst into a Buffalo supermarket and opened fire. Following the shooting, as he put his gun to his own neck – two officers persuaded him to drop his weapon and surrender.

This is also truly a tragedy of epic proportion. Many questions demand answers.

What did NY police miss in their evaluation of this young man with an obvious mental condition? With a history of this kind of intent, why was he not flagged as someone who should not be sold an assault rifle? Ten people are dead with three more wounded as a result. Why did the joint law enforcement / health-care system fail him and essentially those he killed?

Biden described him as “a lone gunman armed with weapons of war and a hate-filled soul”. While it is clear there was much clearly wrong with Gedron’s thinking, he had a previously stated mental condition and was clearly a danger to himself as well as others. Additionally, where was his purported white supremacist thinking coming from?

This young man with no prior history of criminal activity beyond his previously stated intent had to be filling his mind with these ideas from somewhere? Finally, where was the follow up on behalf of his mental health? Obviously, his cries for help were not heeded.

In his speech, Biden continued-

“We must all work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America,” .“Our hearts are heavy once again but our resolve must never ever waver.”

-President Joe Biden

Perhaps, we need to address the reality (and horror) of the fallout that occurs when our current collaborative health care system fails someone who is clearly calling out for help. This is just as much “a stain on the soul of America”.

While America mourns the horror of what he did and grieves for the families who lost loved ones in an act that his unbridled thinking unleashed – we have to take responsibility for the system that failed to see his need. Lives could have been saved had the state/local law enforcement, together with their partners in the healthcare system, not failed him.

Simply chocking this up to racially motivated extremism is not exactly addressing the truth of the matter. It covers up the more insidious national problem – mental health, pandemic or no, is not a priority and it clearly should be.

Gedron has been charged with first-degree murder. As investigators cull through his past, pondering how this young man transformed from a quiet student to an accused killer, perhaps they will see where he slipped through the cracks in his mental health issues. Hopefully now Mr. Gedron will get the help he really needs.

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