'A beautiful soul': Loved ones of Buffalo shooting victims mourn losses to tight-knit community

·13 min read

As the people of Buffalo, New York begin to heal from the deadly weekend shooting at a busy supermarket, the community is sharing stories and mourning the loss of 10 of its members.

Among the dead are a heroic security guard hailed for his actions during the shooting and a vocal community advocate who championed civil rights and education causes.

Thirteen people were shot Saturday afternoon at a Tops Friendly Markets store in a historic neighborhood on the city's Near East Side. Eleven of the people shot were Black and two were white. The suspect, who is white, is accused of being inspired by a racist theory that fueled the carnage.

After the attack shuttered the neighborhood's only grocery store, residents and community organizations were rallying to support each other by donating food and pooling resources.

Authorities released the names of the victims Sunday evening. Their ages range from 32 to 86.

Here's what we know about the victims:

Aaron Salter Jr.

Aaron Salter Jr., 55, retired as a lieutenant from the Buffalo Police Traffic Division in 2018, having “earned his wings” as a motorcycle cop in his final years on the force, a source of great pride, his son, Aaron Salter III, remembered.

On Saturday, Salter fired multiple shots at the 18-year-old gunman who police say had scouted the store with hate in his heart. But the guard's shots didn't penetrate the attacker's body armor. Salter was killed by return fire.

The Sunday before, Salter was being a dad, convinced he could get a stubborn motorcycle started if he only had a wire, his son, his son said.

“He went into the inside of the motorcycle and he was like, ‘Oh, man, I wish I had a wire,’” his son recalled on Monday. “He was sitting there trying to figure out how to take that situation and get them going again, even though he had nothing. He was trying to figure out how to jump-start them together.”

Aaron Salter Jr. and his wife, Kimberly, were married for 31 years. Salter, a security guard at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, was slain in a mass shooting on May 14, 2022.
Aaron Salter Jr. and his wife, Kimberly, were married for 31 years. Salter, a security guard at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, was slain in a mass shooting on May 14, 2022.

A stranger with a jump-box got the motorcycle started, but that last best memory of his father is what Aaron Salter III’s mind goes to as his family prepares to bury his father with honors later this week.

“Just seeing him in action, doing stuff like that is what I'm going to miss about him," he said. "Because even when something happened that wasn't supposed to happen, he was — just like what he did on Saturday, what he did with that shooter — just spring into action and try to figure out a way to make it work.”

Aaron Salter Jr. was used to seeing people coming and going. Working for three decades as a Buffalo traffic cop, that came with the territory. But in his final four years, after he retired as a cop and became a security guard at Tops on the city’s East Side, he made sure to note those comings and goings, to make a fuss, to notice new sneakers or a sharp outfit. The smallest details didn’t escape notice, and comment, always offered with a smile and a laugh.

Mention his name to Tops patrons and they beam. He had a way of making people's days.

Aaron Salter Jr. with his daughter, Latisha Slaughter on a 2016 trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia. Salter, a security guard at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, was slain in a mass shooting on May 14, 2022.
Aaron Salter Jr. with his daughter, Latisha Slaughter on a 2016 trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia. Salter, a security guard at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, was slain in a mass shooting on May 14, 2022.

Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia called Salter "beloved" and "a hero in our eyes" for what he did on Saturday. Mayor Byron Brown told CNN: “He was a hero who tried to protect people in the store.”

When the kids were growing up, the family would vacation at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, dubbed “The Rollercoaster Capital of the World,” and for years, until he got older and wiser, the Buffalo traffic cop would ride the coasters, too, his son remembered.

Since Saturday, strangers have been reaching out to Salter on Instagram, talking about his father's legacy, one that goes beyond his marriage and his children and his career in law enforcement.

"People are telling me that they used to be locals at the store and every time they would go into the store, he would talk to them, that he was always kind to them. And that really meant a lot, from a complete stranger, telling me that when they would go into the store, he made them feel safe."

Read more about Salter here.

Peter D. Kramer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

'This is the heart of the Black community': Buffalo shooting rattles close-knit neighborhood

Ruth Whitfield

Whitfield, 86, was killed while stopping for groceries at the Tops store after visiting her husband at a nursing home — a trip she made religiously over the past eight years, according to her family.

As of Tuesday, Garnell Whitfield Sr. still didn't know his wife had died. Her family is struggling to find a way to break the news, according to her son, Garnell Whitfield Jr.

Ruth Whitfield
Ruth Whitfield

"What do we tell our father? How do we tell him that the love of his life, his primary caretaker, the person who kept him alive for the past eight years — how do we tell him that she's gone?" Garnell Whitfield Jr. said at a news conference Monday at Durham Memorial A.M.E Zion Church in Buffalo.

Flanked by family members, some who were physically felled by grief and unable to speak, children and grandchildren of Ruth Whitfield on Monday described her endearing love for her family and how she was at the center of the family and constantly focused on their well-being. Some friends called them the Cleavers.

Whitfield rarely left the house without ensuring she was immaculately dressed, her family said. She fished, she camped, she cooked an unmatched macaroni and cheese.

And she made sure that her family, as Black Americans, stood proud of their heritage and ancestry.

"She was unapologetically an African American princess," her son, Raymond Whitfield, said.

Read more about Whitfield here.

Gary Craig, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Ruth Whitfield, (left) and Garnell Whitfield Sr., (right).
Ruth Whitfield, (left) and Garnell Whitfield Sr., (right).

Pearl Young

Pearl Young, affectionately called "Pearly," was born in Alabama, where she still has family. She was 77.

She was many things: a mother, a wife of a pastor, a grandmother, a substitute teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools, a Sunday school teacher and a head of a local food pantry.

When she was 14, Young began living with her eldest sister, Mary Craig of Tuscaloosa, and her husband. It was through Craig that Young found Christ. The two sisters were very close.

The Fayette, Ala. native was many things: a mother, a wife of a pastor, a grandmother, a substitute teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools, a Sunday school teacher and a head of a local food pantry.
The Fayette, Ala. native was many things: a mother, a wife of a pastor, a grandmother, a substitute teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools, a Sunday school teacher and a head of a local food pantry.

"She worked faithfully in her church, she fed the people, the hungry, the needy she was always there," Craig told NBC15.

Young moved to Buffalo in 1967 after marrying her husband, Oliver Young Jr., the Buffalo News reported. For 25 years, she helped run the church's soup kitchen.

"Even if it was nothing but soup and bread, whatever she could do, she would just always avail herself to help the people," Bishop Glenwood H. Young, Young's brother-in-law said. "That's what she was noted for ... her life was full of giving."

Read more about Young here.

Adria R. Walker, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Katherine 'Kat' Massey

Nearly a year ago, Katherine “Kat” Massey penned a letter to the editor of The Buffalo News. It addressed the killing of an Erie County legislator’s cousin, who was gunned down outside the legislator’s district office.

Massey, 72, a staunch community advocate who spent years of her life fighting for Buffalo’s Black residents, called on the federal government to address the trafficking of illegal handguns, which she said were “the primary culprit” behind Buffalo’s gun problems.

The shooting, she said, was “another gut-wrenching account of the escalating gun violence in Buffalo and many major U.S. cities.”

Massey championed the well-being of a network of family, neighbors, students and fellow advocates, family and friends told The Buffalo News.

Her sister, Barbara Massey, waited outside the Tops store for hours Saturday, in hopes that her sister would return phone calls, the News wrote; Massey said her sister was “a beautiful soul."

Betty Jean Grant, a former Erie County legislator who has been friends with Massey for over 20 years, told the News that Massey fought for education and civil rights for the city’s Black community.

"She was unapologetic about making sure our community was not ignored," Grant said.

Massey was a part of a group called We Are Women Warriors, a nonprofit aimed at helping historically economically-disadvantaged individuals and their children “by aiding the upliftment and empowerment of the neighborhoods and communities,” according to the group’s Facebook page. She’d push for neighborhood improvements, including planting trees and a mural, family members told NBC News. She’d pick up trash and donate supplies to local schools in her spare time, they said.

"She was the greatest person you will ever meet in your life," her nephew Demetrius Massey told NBC. "It doesn't seem real."

Read more about Massey here.

Sarah Taddeo, Democrat & Chronicle

Roberta A. Drury

When Roberta Drury, 32, was in the room you always knew it, say those who loved her.

"Robbie was the one to say hello first," wrote her sister, Amanda Drury, in a text. "She was never afraid to talk to anyone and made friends everywhere she went."

Drury's aunt, Valerie Wilcox, told the The Buffalo News that she fondly recalled the day her sister legally adopted the "sweet, sweet girl" with a capacity for joy that could echo off the walls.

On family vacations to Wildwood, New Jersey, Amanda remembers that her sister was the one pulling everyone else into the water.

"Jubilant" was the word her brother, Christopher Moyer, used to describe her. She was a fan of food and life and seemingly every song on the radio he didn't know, he said.

Roberta Drury is described by friends and family as jubilant, caring, and the life of any party. On May 14, 2022, she lost her life at the age of 32 at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, to a gunman espousing white supremacist ideology.
Roberta Drury is described by friends and family as jubilant, caring, and the life of any party. On May 14, 2022, she lost her life at the age of 32 at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, to a gunman espousing white supremacist ideology.

Drury's swings in energy could make it difficult to hold a job, Moyer said. But after he was diagnosed with leukemia, eventually requiring a bone marrow transplant, she rushed to Buffalo eight years ago to be by his side. She babysat his two small children, made grocery trips to help out, and accompanied him on wing runs for his restaurant, The Dalmatia Hotel.

“No matter what she went through. She was full of life," said her friend and neighbor in Buffalo, Krystle Pino, to radio station WGRZ. "Caring, happy, she cared about everyone,”

Read more about Drury here.

Matthew Korfhage, USA TODAY Network

Heyward Patterson

Heyward Patterson was a man of worship — and worship, to him, meant service.

At State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, where he was a deacon, he was the one to turn on the heat in the winter or the air conditioning in the summer. He drove the church van to pick up members who lacked transportation and fixed whatever needed fixing.

Patterson, a 67-year-old father of three, has a strong presence. His absence at church the day after the shooting was deeply felt.

"Everyone is upset right about now, because the first person you'd see (at church) was Deacon Patterson," said Penny Beckham, a fellow church member and the director of its soup kitchen, Plate of Love, where Patterson also volunteered.

Heyward Patterson
Heyward Patterson

Patterson, known by friends as Tenny, was at Tops on Saturday in his usual role as a so-called jitney driver, providing an affordable and safe ride home for people with a shopping cart full of bags and no vehicle. It was simply an extension of his greater life of service, Beckham said.

She recalled many times seeing him take soup kitchen customers aside while they waited for their food and give them needed encouragement.

"If you were down, he’d always say something to encourage your or lift your spirits," she said. "He was one of those people who’d build you up. Even if you didn’t think you did much, he’d make you feel like you did."

Read more about Patterson here.

Justin Murphy, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Celestine Chaney

Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo was a routine destination for 65-year old Celestine Chaney, her aunt Teresa Hagler told WBRC Birmingham.

That's where she was at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, with her older sister JoAnn Daniels. She was there to buy shrimp, and the ingredients for a favorite dessert: strawberry shortcake.

When the gunfire started, Chaney and Daniels began running toward the back of the store. At some point, Chaney fell. "I thought she had got up and was behind me, but she wasn't behind me," Daniels told The Buffalo News.

Chaney never emerged out the back door.

Wayne Jones, left, looks on as his aunt JoAnn Daniels, holds a photograph of his mother Celestine Chaney, who was killed in Saturday's shooting at a supermarket, during an interview with The Associated Press in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, May 16, 2022.
Wayne Jones, left, looks on as his aunt JoAnn Daniels, holds a photograph of his mother Celestine Chaney, who was killed in Saturday's shooting at a supermarket, during an interview with The Associated Press in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, May 16, 2022.

Chaney had overcome plenty of adversity: including two aneurysms in her brain, and breast cancer. The family will be wearing pink ribbons in her honor. "She was a breast cancer survivor and she survived aneurysms in her brain, and then she goes to Tops and gets shot," Daniels told The Buffalo News.

Read more about Chaney here.

Jim Beckerman, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Andre Mackniel

A loving brother, cousin, father and grandfather, Andre S. Mackniel helped his family in any way he could.

The Auburn, New York resident was visiting Buffalo on Saturday when he stopped by a Tops Friendly Markets store to pick up a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son.

“He never came out with the cake,” Clarissa Alston-McCutcheon said of her cousin.

Mackniel, 53, grew up in Buffalo and attended South Park High School, according to his Facebook page.

Tracey Maciulewicz, who identified herself on Facebook as Mackniel’s fiancée, wrote that it was their son’s birthday Saturday.

“Today my baby was born but today my soul mate was taken. How do I tell my son his daddy’s not coming home? How do I as a mother make it ok? Someone please tell me because I really don’t know,” she wrote, according to the Washington Post.

Read more about Mackniel here.

Neal Simon, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Geraldine Talley

Those who knew her say Geraldine Chapman Talley was a kind woman who fiercely loved her family and went out of her way to help others in need.

Talley, of Buffalo, and her fiancé, Gregory Allen, had stopped by the store Saturday afternoon for a few groceries, ingredients for their weekly waterfront picnic, family told People. Once inside, the pair split up to collect the items on their list.

Moments later, the shooting started , Allen told The Buffalo News.

Talley, who had several brothers and sisters, was born in Alabama, but spent most of her life in Buffalo, family members told numerous media outlets. She is also survived by two children.

Geraldine Talley, 61, of Buffalo was one of 10 people killed at Tops Friendly Markets on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo on May 14, 2022.
Geraldine Talley, 61, of Buffalo was one of 10 people killed at Tops Friendly Markets on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo on May 14, 2022.

Family and friends remember her as an excellent cook and baker, whose specialties included cheesecake and carrot cake. She previously worked as an executive assistant.

"Geraldine Talley was a beautiful soul," former coworker Joshua Kellick told the News. "She loved her family and those that weren't family, she treated us like one of her own. Her loss is one that will be felt in the community."

Her niece Lakesha Chapman told CNN that Talley was "a sweet, sweet" woman, a devoted mother with a gentle demeanor.

Talley "loved everybody. She was always smiling. She didn't like confrontation. She wanted everything to be easy and full of love," Chapman told People.

"She was just a lover," she said. "That's why this hurts so much."

Read more about Talley here.

Victoria E. Freile, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Margus D. Morrison

The Tops Friendly Market was just a few minutes' walk from the home Margus Morrison shared with Regina Patterson.

Morrison went in search of chicken for dinner Saturday but couldn’t find what Patterson was looking for. So he called to ask what he should do.

Moments later Morrison, 52, was among 10 slain.

"He was a beautiful guy, just loving and caring and he took care of me and his children,” Patterson told WGRZ, a Buffalo TV station, in an interview Monday. “He was our hero and there's nothing that he wouldn't do for us and his mom.”

For the past four years, Morrison had worked as a school bus aide.

In a Facebook post, the father of a young Buffalo public school student recalled Morrison.

“Whether the man knew it or not, he was needed and made an important impact,” Joseph Jordan wrote.

Read more about Morrison here.

Thomas C. Zambito, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Buffalo victims identified: Shooting at supermarket leaves 10 dead

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