In wake of racist Buffalo shooting, New York lawmakers want first domestic terrorism task force meeting of 2020

STATEN ISLAND, NY – A group of New York lawmakers on Wednesday called on the state to convene the first meeting of a domestic terrorism task force, first announced in 2020, intended to help prevent shootings by mass like the one that happened in Buffalo this weekend.

The Republican lawmakers’ letter to Governor Kathy Hochul and State Criminal Justice Services Division Commissioner Rossana Rosado called for the first meeting of the domestic terrorism task force that was passed in the budget of the state 2020.

“The horrific and tragic shooting that took place in Buffalo last weekend and the mass shooting in a Brooklyn subway last month are the most recent examples of the devastation that domestic terrorism brings to our state and our nation,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We respectfully request the task force to meet now and begin the essential work of preventing any further heinous attacks in our communities.”

Assemblyman Mike Reilly (R-South Shore) and Assemblyman Mike Tannousis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) were among the lawmakers who signed the letter.

“I’ve said many times that the laws we pass in this chamber don’t always reflect what happens in the real world,” Reilly said. “The Governor’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force has not met once since it was established two years ago. His failure to produce a crucial report on the matter is a direct failing and failure of the governor’s administration.

Their call follows a mass shooting Saturday at a Buffalo supermarket that left 10 people dead. Investigators say they have found multiple pieces of evidence indicating that the alleged shooter, Payton Gendron, sought to kill black people.

Another alleged act of domestic terrorism occurred last month.

Prosecutors allege Frank James deployed a smoke grenade at a Brooklyn subway car in April and opened fire injuring several people. James faces multiple charges, including terrorism-related charges. He pleaded not guilty last week.

“Without execution and enforcement, laws passed by the state legislature are ineffective,” Tannousis said.

“More than two years after the creation of the Domestic Terrorism Task Force, the organization tasked with preparing and protecting New Yorkers from horrific acts like those that recently occurred in the Brooklyn subway and in Buffalo, no has not yet held a single meeting. This is unacceptable and a failure of our state government.

In April 2020, former Governor Andrew Cuomo passed legislation creating the task force as part of that year’s budget. The nine-member group was supposed to “examine, assess and determine how to prevent mass shootings by domestic terrorists,” according to the text of the legislation.

Task force members included Rosado, the state police superintendent, and governor and legislature appointees.

The group was to meet “at least quarterly” and complete its work in November, according to legislation named after Rabbi Josef Neumann, a victim of the 2019 Hanukkah stabbings in Rockland County.

A judge ruled earlier this year that the defendant in that case, Grafton Thomas, was unfit to stand trial. Prior to this attack, Thomas sought information about Jewish people, including searches for “Zionist temples” in Elizabeth, NJ, and Staten Island, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.

Neither Hochul’s office nor the Division of Criminal Justice Services responded to a list of questions about the task force at press time.

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