What we know about the victims of the Buffalo shooting

Buffalo Supermarket Shooting Targeted Violence
People pray outside the scene of Saturday's shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The identities of Buffalo shooting victims have been trickling out, largely through family members speaking to media outlets.

The reported names include:

  • Former Buffalo Police Lt. Aaron Salter
  • Ruth Whitfield, mother of Buffalo’s retired fire commissioner, Garnell W. Whitfield
  • Katherine “Kat” Massey, civil rights activist and writer
  • Pearly Young, who ran a food pantry
  • Heyward Patterson, a driver and church volunteer
  • Celestine Chaney, a grandmother to six
  • Roberta Drury, a resident of the Syracuse area
  • Ten people were killed in the attack and another three were injured. Eleven of the victims are Black and two are white, authorities said. Law enforcement officials say the attack was racially motivated and it is being investigated as a hate crime and an act of terrorism.

    Aaron Salter

    Former Buffalo Police Lt. Aaron Salter was one of the 10 people killed in the mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Market grocery store, Mayor Byron Brown told NPR.

    “Salter died a hero trying to stop the shooter and protect others in the community,” Brown said.

    Salter worked as a security guard at the store. Three other store employees were also killed, according to officials.

    Salter fired at the attacker, striking him once but the bullet was caught in body armor.

    Salter “cared about the community. He looked after the store,” local resident Yvette Mack told WGRZ. She said he would “let us know if we was right or wrong.”

    Ruth Whitfield

    Whitfield, 86, was the mother of a retired Buffalo fire commissioner, according to The Buffalo News.

    Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told NPR that Whitfield had visited her husband in a nursing home near the store.

    She “was picking up a few items and never made it out of the supermarket,” he said.

    Whitfield was a “beloved wife, mother, and grandmother” and was her husband’s primary caretaker, according to attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the family.

    Katherine “Kat” Massey

    Massey, 72, was a member of the community group We Are Women Warriors. The group held a forum in February to discuss ways to tackle youth violence after an incident in a local high school. A year earlier, the group organized a giveaway of masks and PPE for people in Buffalo.

    Her sister, Barbara Massey, told The Buffalo News that Katherine was “a beautiful soul.”

    Massey had written for both the Buffalo Challenger and The Buffalo Criterion newspapers, which were established to serve the city’s Black residents.

    According to The Buffalo News, Massey was a frequent writer of letters to the editor in that newspaper as well.

    In May 2021, she wrote about what she called “the escalating gun violence in Buffalo and many major U.S. cities.”

    “There needs to be extensive federal action/legislation to address all aspects of the issue,” her letter to The Buffalo News read. “Current pursued remedies mainly inspired by mass killings – namely, universal background checks and banning assault weapons – essentially exclude the sources of our city’s gun problems. Illegal handguns, via out of state gun trafficking, are the primary culprits.”

    “We lost a voice yesterday. We lost a powerful, powerful voice,” Massey’s longtime friend Betty Jean Grant told the paper.

    Pearly Young

    Young, 77, ran a food pantry, according to Buffalo-born journalist Madison Carter.

    “For 25 years she ran a pantry where every Saturday she fed people in Central Park. Every. Saturday. She loved singing, dancing, & being with family. She was mother, grandma, & missionary. Gone too soon,” Carter wrote.

    Heyward Patterson

    Heyward Patterson was among those killed. He worked as a driver who gave rides to residents to and from the grocery store and would help with their groceries.

    The 68-year-old regularly attended The State Tabernacle Church of God and would stand at the doorway to welcome people into the service on Sundays, The Buffalo News reported.

    Patterson was the church pastor’s armor-bearer and would volunteer to clean the church every Saturday, according to the paper, and he also spent time in the soup kitchen.

    “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. You ask, he’ll give it. If he don’t got it, he’ll make a way to get it or send you to the person that can give it to you. He’s going to be missed a lot.”

    Celestine Chaney

    Celestine Chaney was at the grocery store to get shrimp and strawberry shortcake. The 65-year-old was a grandmother to six and had a great-grandchild. She was also a cancer survivor, WKYC reported.

    She prized her role as a grandmother most of all, The Buffalo News reported, with her grandchildren ranging in age from 4 to 28. She was a regular churchgoer and enjoyed playing bingo and shopping.

    “She was probably the sweetest person you could meet,” her daughter Dominque Brown told the paper. “Very loving, very giving, very kind.”

    Roberta Drury

    Roberta Drury, 32, was at the supermarket to get food for dinner.

    “She was very vibrant,” her sister Amanda Drury told The New York Times. “She always was the center of attention and made the whole room smile and laugh.”

    Drury lived in the Syracuse area but was in Buffalo to be with her brother, according to Syracuse.com.

    The North Syracuse Central School District said Drury had attended schools there. “The news of the shooting so close to home is devastating enough, but to learn that a member of our NorthStar family fell victim to an extremist act of hate, is unfathomable,” the superintendent said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken by news of the despicable act and they go out to the families of friends of Roberta and all the victims.”

    Bill Chappell and Nicole Hernandez contributed reporting.

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