Biden laments 'stain' of hate after mass shooting in New York

President Joe Biden at the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the Capitol in Washington on May 15, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - United States President Joe Biden urged police departments to spend federal law enforcement aid, saying it can help reduce gun violence "and intervene before it's too late".

Hours after his speech at an event for police officers killed in the line of duty, the White House said the President and First Lady Jill Biden will visit Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday (May 17) to grieve the victims of a "senseless and horrific mass shooting" that left 10 dead.

The federal authorities are investigating the killings as a racially motivated hate crime. Police said 11 of the 13 people shot were black and took an 18-year-old white man into custody.

"We must all work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America," Mr Biden told the audience of law enforcement officials at the steps of the US Capitol in Washington on Sunday.

The suspect, dressed in military gear, opened fire at a grocery store on Saturday and was arrested by police. One of the dead was a former police officer working as a security guard whom the shooter killed in an exchange of gunfire.

The Justice Department said it is investigating the shooting "as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism".

The shooter, identified as Payton Gendron, previously threatened a shooting at his high school last June, the Associated Press quoted a law enforcement official as saying.

The President called on cities, states and counties to use the US$350 billion (S$488 billion) in funds for law enforcement under the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March 2021, "so they can keep cops on the job".

"Spend it now, this summer, when crime historically spikes," he said at the the 41st annual National Peace Officers' Memorial service, which paid tribute to a record 129 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2021.

Republicans have sought to blame Democrats for an increase in violent crime in recent years, viewing it as a campaign topic.

Mr Biden has targeted the proliferation of "ghost guns", privately made firearms without serial numbers, and has proposed more money for community policing. This year, there have been 198 mass shootings in the US, defined as four or more people shot, including events in Portland, Sacramento, New York City and Pittsburgh, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Mr Biden had already ordered flags at government buildings to be lowered to half mast on Sunday for Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that 56 law enforcement officials died in accidents in 2021, and 73 died as a result of criminal acts.

A man is detained following a mass shooting in the parking lot of Tops supermarket, in Buffalo, New York, on May 14, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

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