Guard ‘heroes’, shoppers among Buffalo shooting victims

BUFFALO, NY (AP) — Aaron Salter was a beloved community member and security guard who knew Tops Friendly Market shoppers by name. When they were attacked by a man armed with a rifle, he took action.

The retired Buffalo police officer shot the assailant multiple times, hitting his armored vest at least once. The bullet did not penetrate and Salter, 55, was shot and killed.

“He’s a real hero,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday. “There could have been more victims without his actions.”

Salter was one of 10 killed in an attack whose victims represented a cross-section of life in the predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. They were shot by a white man who authorities say showed up at the store for the “express purpose” of killing black people, including Salter. Three others were injured.

All but one of those killed were over the age of 50, police said.

Among the dead was Andre Macknil, 53, of Auburn, New York, who was in town visiting relatives and picking up a surprise birthday cake for his grandson.

“He never went out with the cake,” Clarissa Alston-McCutcheon said of her cousin. She said that kind of surprise was typical for him. He was “just a loving, caring guy. Beloved family. Has always been there for his family.

Another victim, Heyward Patterson, 67, was a deacon at a nearby church. He had passed by the church soup kitchen before heading to the supermarket, where he offered an informal taxi service taking people home with their bags.

“My understanding is he was helping someone put groceries in his car when he was shot and killed,” said Pastor Russell Bell of the State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ.

Bell said Patterson would clean up the church and do whatever was necessary.

“He would meet my wife and me at the door and escort us to the office. We never asked or asked him to do it. He just did it out of love,” Bell said.

Services went on as usual on Sunday but it was difficult.

“It was quite a struggle, we had to get through it and our hearts are broken,” he said. “Deacon Patterson was a man who loved people. He loved the community as much as he loved the church,” he said.

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Ruth Whitfield was the 86-year-old mother of retired Buffalo Fire Marshal Garnell Whitfield. She had just been visiting her husband at a nursing home, as she did every day, when she was killed while buying some groceries, her son told The Buffalo News.

Ruth Whitfield was “a mother to orphans” and “a blessing to all of us”, her son said. He attributed his strength and commitment to his family to a strong religious faith.

“She inspired me to be a man of God and to do whatever I do the best that I could. I couldn’t have done it without her,” Garnell Whitfield said.

Roberta Drury had recently returned home to live with her mother, Dezzelynn McDuffie, who told The Buffalo News that the 32-year-old – the youngest of those killed – went to Tops to shop on Saturday after- noon. Soon, McDuffie saw gruesome videos circulating on social media that appeared to show the shooter shooting his daughter just outside the store.

Client Katherine Massey, 72, whose sister, Barbara Massey, called her a “beautiful soul”, was also killed.

Zaire Goodman, 20, was among those injured, having been shot in the neck, Sen. Tim Kennedy said at a church service on Sunday. Goodman is the son of a Kennedy staffer.

“I’m devastated. I’m angry,” Kennedy said, adding that Goodman was recovering. “And I’m thinking of the families who won’t be hosting a loved one tonight.”

The attack left the supermarket’s frequent customers mourning the loss of friends and neighbours.

Yvette Mack remembered Salter, the security guard, as someone who cared about the community, looked after the store, and “let us know whether we were right or wrong.”

Mack would go to the store to play lottery numbers and shop. She said she spoke to Salter shortly before the shooting.

“I was playing my numbers. He said ‘I see you playing your numbers!’ I laughed. And he also played his numbers. Can you imagine seeing someone, and you don’t know they’re not going home? ” she says.

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