Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old accused of killing 10 people and wounding three others in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, wore a hazmat suit to class due concerns about COVID-19.
Fox News Digital obtained a picture of Gendron in a hazmat suit while sitting in class at Susquehanna Valley High School in Conklin, New York, after the school returned to in-person during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gendron’s peers noticed rebellious signs and odd behavior, including one of his classmates Nathan Twitchell, who told The New York Times that Gendron wore the hazmat suit to class following the return to in-person learning.
"He wore the entire suit: boots, gloves, everything."
A yearbook picture obtained by the outlet had a caption below Gendron's picture stating, "Most interesting mask."
Family members of Gendron told The New York Post that he "likely snapped" from isolation caused by the pandemic.
"I have no idea how he could have gotten caught up in this. I blame it on COVID,’" Sandra Komoroff told The Post, a 68-year-old cousin of Gendron's mother. "He was very paranoid about getting COVID, extremely paranoid, to the point that his friends were saying he would wear the hazmat suit [to school]."
"And then he got COVID just a few weeks ago... He went to family functions with a respirator mask on. He totally wasn't going to get COVID, and then he got COVID. They were vaxxed to the max. I don't know if it was a bad case, I just know he caught it," Komoroff said, adding that Gendron had "bought into the fear of COVID."
"That’s the only way to say it," Komoroff said. "When you're home all day on the internet, you're missing out on human contact. There's a lot of emotions and a lot of body language you're not getting [as] when you see their face."
Officials said that Gendron allegedly chose the Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo as the location for the attack because it was located in a largely black neighborhood.
In the manifesto, which has been circulating online, was written that the area's demographic breakdown has the "highest black percentage that is close enough to where I live."
Officials believe the shooting was racially motivated based on the 180-page manifesto. Gendron wrote that he feared white people were being replaced by people of other races.
Eleven of the victims in the attack were black and two were white.
Gendron has been charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty. He is scheduled to be back in court Thursday.
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