Plaintiffs Include Family of Celestine Chaney, Who Was Murdered at Tops Friendly Market, In Addition to 16 Tops Friendly Market Employees and Patrons
NEW YORK – Today, Everytown Law, along with civil rights lawyers from the firms Bonner & Bonner and Ryder Law, filed two lawsuits on behalf of 17 survivors of the racially motivated mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo. On May 14, 2022, a gunman, using an illegal assault weapon with removable large-capacity magazines, opened fire at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people, wounding three others, and traumatizing dozens more. All 10 of those were Black, and the gunman specifically targeted the area as it is a predominantly Black community.
The first suit is filed on behalf of Wayne Jones, the son of Celestine Chaney, one of the ten individuals murdered during the May 2022 shooting. Chaney, age 65, was killed by bullets fired from an illegal assault weapon equipped with a removable 30-round magazine, which the shooter was able to quickly reload while he was shooting Chaney.
The second suit seeks compensation for 16 survivors who, while they were not shot, suffered lasting harm and severe emotional distress as a result of being at the scene of the mass shooting and in the line of fire while it occurred. These victims continue to experience the life-altering effects of the severe trauma they endured.
“The tragedy at Tops Friendly Market, one of the worst racist attacks in modern American history, was made possible because members of the gun industry, like MEAN Arms, Vintage Firearms, and RMA Armament, helped a radicalized teen obtain an assault weapon that is banned in the state of New York and body armor that should have never been sold to him,” said Eric Tirschwell, Executive Director of Everytown Law. “This lawsuit also includes the social media companies that addicted and radicalized the shooter and helped him learn how to carry out his racist massacre, as well as the shooter’s parents, who knew more than enough about their son’s violent tendencies and access to a firearm but failed to intervene.”
“Although nothing can ever change what happened at Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022, filing and fully prosecuting these lawsuits are important steps in identifying and holding accountable the bad actors that prepared and equipped the shooter to kill, maim and terrorize a Black community,” said Charles Bonner, a civil rights lawyer and principal in the Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner.
“The violent actions of a white supremacist who targeted my community ripped my mother away from me, and her nine grandchildren,” said Wayne Jones, son of Celestine Chaney. “This racist attack could have been prevented; numerous companies and individuals had the power to stop it from happening. My only hope is that this lawsuit can raise awareness and hold them accountable so that another gunman can’t inflict the same kind of terror and incalculable damage.”
“I’ll never forget the sounds of gunshots echoing throughout Tops on what felt like a typical Saturday afternoon when, in the blink of an eye, my grocery store turned into a war zone.” said Fragrance Harris Stanfield, survivor of the Buffalo mass shooting. “While I escaped without a bullet wound, the terror that the shooter inflicted on me and other survivors will live with us forever. It’s my hope that this lawsuit can help to not only hold the individuals and entities accountable who allowed the shooter to carry out his racist rampage, but that we can also change the conversation around who constitutes a victim following tragedies like this one.”
Both lawsuits name the same defendants, who are alleged to have facilitated, enabled, or failed to prevent the shooting:
- MEAN Arms LLC., the magazine-lock manufacturer that sold an easy-to-remove lock that allowed the Buffalo shooter to acquire and then use an AR-15 assault weapon with a removable 30-round magazine that is illegal in New York to shoot, kill, and terrorize people at the store;
- RMA Armament, the company that manufactured and sold the shooter the combat-grade body armor that emboldened him and protected him from defensive fire during the massacre;
- Vintage Firearms, the store that sold the shooter the illegal assault weapon he used in the mass shooting;
- YouTube (and its parent companies Alphabet Inc. and Google), which operate a defectively designed social media product that addicted the shooter, contributed to his radicalization and helped him acquire information he needed to equip himself for and carry out the mass shooting, including video instruction on how to remove the magazine lock, defeat and kill an armed security guard in a gunfight, and conduct a deadlier mass shooting;
- Reddit Inc., which operates a defectively designed social media product that the shooter used, became radicalized on, and gave him information he needed to equip himself for the mass shooting, including about RMA Armament’s combat-style body armor; and
- Paul and Pamela Gendron, the parents of the shooter who disregarded clear warning signs about the shooter, allowed him to amass guns and combat gear in their home, and failed to use New York state’s Red Flag law to disarm him.
According to the complaints filed today:
To prepare for the shooting, the gunman purchased an AR-15-style rifle from Vintage Firearms. The gun was equipped with an easy-to-remove magazine lock from MEAN Arms, which falsely advertised that the installation of the lock brought illegal assault weapons in compliance with NY law—all the while telling potential consumers like the shooter that the lock could be easily removed, giving them a way to circumvent laws banning assault weapons. The shooter did in fact remove the lock easily, allowing him to possess a fully functioning assault weapon capable of accepting large-capacity magazines, which is illegal under New York law. The shooter also purchased combat-style body armor online from RMA Armament, which the company sold to him without any verification or vetting. That armor, which the shooter wore during his racist attack, emboldened him and protected him from defensive fire from the store’s security guard and allowed him to continue his attack.
The shooter also used social media sites Youtube (owned by affiliated companies Alphabet and Google) and Reddit in the years and months leading up to the attack. The kind of design features and recommendation algorithms used by these websites have a well-documented tendency to addict teenagers, amplify hateful conspiracy theories, radicalize young men to extremism, and promote gun violence. This is precisely what happened here.The shooter was addicted to these websites, and these websites radicalized him against the Black community and equipped him with the knowledge he needed to execute his horrific plans. These websites’ design features and algorithms shepherded him along the path of radicalization and taught him how to obtain military-grade armaments like his body armor, modify his weapon to enable its semi-automatic firing capacity, and conduct a military-style assault operation with deadly efficiency.
Lastly, the shooter’s parents, Paul and Pamela Gendron, played a critical role in enabling the shooting. Despite knowing that the shooter had threatened to commit a murder-suicide less than one year before the Tops massacre, was in possession of at least one gun, and had stabbed to death and decapitated a cat in their garage two months before the shooting—the shooter’s parents failed to take any meaningful action to supervise the shooter or restrict his access to firearms.
Everytown Law is the largest and most experienced team of litigators in the U.S. working full-time on advancing gun violence prevention in the courts. Everytown Law is counsel in several other lawsuits seeking accountability from gun sellers and manufacturers in the wake of mass shootings, including: lawsuits filed by families of victims of the Robb Elementary mass shooting; lawsuits filed by survivors of the Highland Park shooting; a lawsuit arising out of the King Soopers mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado; and a recently settled suit filed by the family of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a 17-year-old exchange student killed in the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018.
The Everytown Law team representing the plaintiffs includes Eric Tirschwell, Executive Director and Chief Litigation Counsel; Alison Barnes, Deputy Director of Affirmative Litigation; Aaron Esty, Senior Counsel; and Eugene Nam, Racial Justice Fellow.
The Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner is a dynamic father and son practice committed to combating injustice, providing exceptional representation, and securing rightful compensation for their clients. Charles Bonner represents the plaintiffs here.
The Ryder Law Firm is a civil rights firm based in Syracuse, New York, that passionately serves the needs of injury victims throughout the state of New York and the nation. Jesse Ryder, principal of the Ryder Law Firm, represents the plaintiffs as well.