A civil rights advocate, church members and a retired officer: Tributes honour Black community leaders killed in Buffalo mass shooting

A gunman’s racist massacre inside a supermarket in Buffalo, New York killed 10 people, including several store employees and Black men and women with long histories serving the communities in which they lived.

Mourners gathered outside the Tops Friendly Markets store and in churches across town on 15 May to pray and call for an end to hate-fuelled violence the day after a mass shooting in the predominantly Black neighborhood. Arrangements of flowers, candles and cut-outs of white doves were placed in makeshift memorials around the site of the shooting.

In total, 13 people were shot. Eleven of the victims are Black.

The people killed by the suspected gunman were grandmothers, a food pantry volunteer, a church deacon, a retired police officer, a civil rights advocate and writer, among others – all with deep ties to their churches and neighbourhoods and remembered as tireless and selfless advocates for their communities and families.

Ruth Whitfield, 88, was a member of the church choir at Durham Memorial AME Zion Church, where she had been a parishioner for 50 years. She stopped at the market to pick up groceries after visiting her husband at a nearby nursing home, according to The New York Times.

The grandmother to eight grandchildren and a mother of four “taught us how to love unconditionally. That’s how she loved us completely,” former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W Whitfield told a Buffalo-area ABC News affiliate.

She was “the consummate mom” and “a mother to the motherless,” he said. “She was a blessing to all of us. She loved God and taught us to do the same thing.”

Her daughter-in-law Cassietta Whitfield described her as “a religious woman who cared deeply for her family.”

Aaron Salter, 55, retired from the Buffalo Police Department after 30 years on the force. For the last four years, he worked as a security guard at the market.

According to law enforcement officials, Salter pulled out his weapon to try to take down the gunman, who was wearing body armor. Gendron then allegedly returned fire, killing the former officer.

“He’s a true hero,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said on Sunday. “There could have been more victims if not for his actions.”

The police chief told ABC News that “he went towards the gunfire, he went towards the fight.”

“He shot the individual, but because of his armor plating vest, it had no effect on him, he said. “Unfortunately, the suspect returned fire, and he succumbed to his injuries … He was a beloved member, and we’re sure he saved lives yesterday.”

Katherine “Kat” Massey, 72, was a longtime civil rights advocate in the Buffalo area described by former Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant as “unapologetic about making sure our community was not ignored.”

She wrote for the region’s historic African American newspapers The Buffalo Criterion, which first published nearly 100 years ago, and The Buffalo Challenger, which recently recognised its 60th anniversary.

A 2011 photo shows civil rights advocate and writer Katherine ‘Kat’ Massey in Buffalo. She was among 10 people killed in a mass shooting on 14 May.


Last year, she wrote a letter to The Buffalo News calling for “extensive federal action” to combat gun violence, following the fatal shooting of a local official’s relative, a “gut-wrenching account of the escalating gun violence in Buffalo and many major US cities.”

“To lose such a fighter, someone who was so eloquent … to lose that voice,” Ms Grant said.

Pearl Young, 77, loved “singing, dancing and being with family” and was a “mother, grandmother and missionary” who helped run a food pantry in Buffalo’s Central Park neighbourhood, according to a local NBC affiliate.

At the 2nd Church of God in Christ Western New York Jurisdiction, she helped feed people at its soup kitchen for 25 years, The Buffalo News reported.

“Even if it was nothing but soup and bread, whatever she could do, she would just always avail herself to help the people,” according to Bishop Glenwood H Young. “Her life was full of giving.”

Heyward “Terry” Patterson, a deacon at State Tabernacle Church of God, would often give rides to Tops shoppers with their groceries.

“He would give the shirt off his back,” his wife Tirzah Patterson told The Buffalo News. “That’s who he is. He wouldn’t hurt anybody. Whatever he had, he’d give it to you.

Celeste Chaney, 65, a grandmother to six grandchildren, went to the Tops market to buy strawberries to make shortcakes while visiting her sister in Buffalo, according to The New York Times.

Her granddaughter Dominque Brown called her “a little lady full of spunk.”

“She was probably the sweetest person you could meet,” she told The Buffalo News. “Very loving, very giving, very kind.”

Roberta Drury, a 32-year-old from Syracuse, was remembered as a “bright vibrant person” by her sister. “She always was the center of attention and made the whole room smile and laugh,” Amanda Drury told the newspaper.

Others killed in the attack include 52-year-old Margus Morrison, 53-year-old Andre Mackneil, and 62-year-old Geraldine Talley, according to the Buffalo Police Department.

Three people – Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Goodman and Christopher Braman – were treated for non life-threatening injuries.

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