Information on the victims is limited. However, authorities have confirmed Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo Police officer working as a security guard, was killed trying to protect those inside the grocery store.
When the gunman, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York, entered the store, Salter shot him multiple times, but Gendron’s armored plating deflected the bullets. Gendron then shot and killed Salter.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia hailed Salter as “a hero in our eyes.”
“I had the pleasure of knowing him, great guy, well respected, well-liked. This is just horrific. It’s tragic. I don’t know what other words to describe it,” Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans said.
Evans said the Buffalo Police Department has reached out to Salter’s family to offer their condolences.
Also killed was Ruth Whitfield, 86, the mother of retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, who told the Buffalo News that his “mother was a mother to the motherless.”
“She was a blessing to us all,” he added.
Katherine Massey, who had gone to the store to pick up some groceries, also was killed, according to the newspaper.
The brother of 32-year-old Roberta Drury confirmed to Nexstar’s WIVB that his sister was killed in Saturday’s shooting. Drury was adopted and lived with family in Buffalo. Her brother, Christopher Moyer, said they frequented the Jefferson Avenue Tops.
Drury was recently helping her brother recover from a bone marrow transplant.
A staffer from New York State Senator Tim Kennedy’s office, Zeneta Everhart, said her son Zaire was inside the store when the attack took place. He survived, suffering non-life-threatening injuries, and is home resting.
Everhart said her son “is truly divinely protected.” Kennedy called the shooting “a hate crime and an act of terrorism on our community.”
It wasn’t immediately clear why Gendron had traveled about 200 miles from Conklin to Buffalo and that particular grocery store, located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, but screenshots purporting to be from a Twitch broadcast appear to show a racial epithet scrawled on the rifle used in the attack, as well as the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.
At the earlier news briefing, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia pointedly called the shooting a hate crime.
“This was pure evil. It was (a) straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the City of Good Neighbors … coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us,” Garcia said.
Twitch said in a statement that it ended Gendron’s transmission “less than two minutes after the violence started.”
The massacre sent shockwaves through an unsettled nation gripped with racial tensions, gun violence and a spate of hate crimes. In the day prior to the shooting, Dallas police said they were investigating a series of shootings in Koreatown as hate crimes. The Buffalo attack came just one month after another mass shooting on a Brooklyn subway train wounded 10 people and just over a year after a mass shooting in a Colorado supermarket killed 10.
Gendron, confronted by police in the store’s vestibule, put a rifle to his neck but was convinced to drop it. He was arraigned later Saturday on a murder charge, appearing before a judge in a paper gown.
Gendron’s name matches the name given in a 180-page manifesto that surfaced online shortly after the attack and took credit for the violence in the name of white supremacy.
Buffalo police declined to comment on the document, circulated widely online, that purports to outline the attacker’s racist, anti-immigrant and antisemitic beliefs, including a desire to drive all people not of European descent from the U.S. It said he drew inspiration from the man who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
Members of the FBI and local law enforcement were seen at the home of Gendron’s parents Saturday night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.