A horrific mass shooting at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday left 10 people dead—most of whom were Black—and three injured in what the authorities have described as a definitive hate crime. In a news conference in the wake of the tragedy, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia didn’t hold back his disgust: “This was pure evil. Straight up racially motivated, hate crime from somebody outside of our community — outside of the City of Good Neighbors.”
The 18-year-old gunman reportedly shared a 180-page manifesto of his warped ideology, inspired by the Great Replacement Theory—basically, the fear (pushed by many prominent Republicans) that white people are being replaced by people of color. The document contains all the attributes of Trump’s #MAGA playbook, including searing hatred towards Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics, and Jews, and a declaration of fascism. We could talk about this man and the alleged mental health challenges that may have led him on a shooting spree at a grocery store he knew would be filled with Black residents, but that will take us nowhere.
Let’s honor the lives we lost too soon, instead.
Ruth Whitfield stopped by the Tops supermarket to grab something to eat after visiting her husband at a nursing home. Her son, former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr., confirmed his mother’s untimely death on Saturday. Whitfield was her husband’s caretaker and, as of Sunday, he had no idea that his wife had been gunned down right after paying him a visit. She made it a point to visit her 88-year-old husband—who has been in the nursing home for the past eight years—every day without fail. Her son said: “She dedicated her entire life to her family, but specifically the last eight years to him.”
Pearl Young, a mother and grandmother, is fondly remembered by her loved ones as a devoted Christian and selfless member of her community who opened up a food pantry. The substitute teacher, who originally hailed from Alabama, ran the pantry near Central Park for more than 20 years.
Heyward Patterson was a deacon at his church and a local driver, offering rides to and from the supermarket while also helping to load groceries for those who needed them. He was helping a customer when he was gunned down in cold blood. His wife, Tirzah Patterson, confirmed that her husband was in the middle of doing good right before he died: “His client was getting ready to get into the vehicle, and that’s when he got hit.” Patterson also leaves behind his daughter.
Andre Mackneil went to the grocery store to pick up a birthday cake for his 3-year-old grandson when he was shot dead. He traveled a long way—almost 120 miles—from his home in Auburn to Buffalo to surprise his little grandson and family members. He never made it. A devoted family man, Mackneil’s cousin described him as a “loving, caring guy” who was “always there for his family.”
Roberta Drury had an infectious smile and was described as “vibrant and outgoing” by those who loved her, including her sister, Amanda Drury, who said she was comfortable “talking to anyone.” She was also generous with her time. When her brother, Christopher Moyer, was recovering from a bone marrow transplant, she helped to manage his restaurant. Drury would often stop by Tops to pick up groceries for her brother’s family. “She would go to Tops for us all the time actually,” he said. “We don’t really have family in the area, so it was just a great help that she could do something for us.” The youngest victim of the massacre, Drury also leaves behind her parents and a third sibling.
Aaron Salter was a former Buffalo police officer and had been acting as a security guard at Tops supermarket on that fateful day. He’s been touted as a hero who saved lives after reports indicated he attempted to take down the gunman. His son, Aaron Salter III, confirmed his father’s death and how he died in the line of duty. The elder Salter was the father of three children.
Katherine Massey spent her life as a civil rights activist who championed the importance of education in her community. She was a passionate writer, having published in local newspapers like the Buffalo Challenger and the Buffalo Criterion. About a year before her untimely death, Massey even wrote about the necessity of regulating firearms. Her nephew remembered his aunt by saying she was “the greatest person you will ever meet in your life.”
Margus Morrison was a father of three who originally hailed from Buffalo and, according to his loved ones, never caused any trouble or “bothered anyone.” Ka’Ron Barnes, a special assistant to the superintendent for community relations confirmed that Morrison worked as a bus aide for the Buffalo school district since 2019.
Geraldine Talley’s niece Lakesha Chapman told CNN that her “Auntie Gerri” was grocery shopping with her fiancé when she was fatally shot. Chapman confirmed that Talley was closer to the front of the supermarket when gunshots rang out, so she was unable to escape. Her fiancé, who had gone to get orange juice, was able to avoid getting harmed or worse. Chapman went on to praise her “Auntie Gerrie” as the “life of the party” who was overflowing with sweetness. “She was just a lover. I mean she didn’t meet a stranger, and that’s why this hurts so much.”
Celestine Chaney had already overcome obstacles as a breast cancer survivor when she died at the hands of the racist gunman. The loving mother and grandmother of six just celebrated her 65th birthday on May 9. Chaney stopped by the store with her older sister, JoAnn Daniels, to pick up fresh strawberries for strawberry shortcake when screams and gunfire erupted. Daniels thought her sister was behind her but when she made it outside, Chaney was nowhere to be found. Daniels found out about her sister’s death on Facebook. Some family members based in Birmingham, Alabama, spoke about Chaney, emphasizing her big smile and hearty laughter. Chaney’s aunt, Teresa Hagler, remembered her niece fondly: “I can just hear her laughing now. Nobody has that laugh but her.”