Buffalo shooting: Remembering the 10 lives taken a year ago in Tops massacre


(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — Ten people, all African American, were killed in a racially motivated mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, a year ago this week, an attack that shook the nation and underscored a rise in white supremacy across the country.

The victims included mothers and grandmothers, a church deacon, a community activist, a retired police officer working security at the store and a father picking up a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son.

“I’m going to tell people that our community suffered a terrible tragedy. We lost precious members of our community,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told ABC News of what he plans to say this weekend to commemorate the May 14, 2022, attack, perpetrated by a teenage white supremacist at a Tops grocery store on the city’s predominantly Black east side.

“But we came together in a way that is an example to the nation and the world of how to handle adversity. We are resilient beyond measure and we will rebuild beyond imagination,” Brown said. “So, there is hope for the future. There is reason out of this darkness to be optimistic, and we will be the city that we want to be.”

Here is how those who perished have been remembered:

Ruth Whitfield, 86

Ruth Whitfield was returning home from visiting her husband in a nursing home when she stopped by Tops to pick up seeds for a garden her son had built her as a Mother’s Day present a year ago, her family told ABC News.

Her son, Garnell Whitfield Jr., the retired Buffalo fire commissioner, described his mother’s devotion to her family, especially her husband of 68 years, who suffers from dementia.

“She was there just about everyday, taking care of him, making sure he was well cared for by the staff, washing, ironing his clothes, making sure he was dressed appropriately, making sure his nails were cut and clean and shaved,” he said. “All of that. Everyday.”

Even as her own health began to weaken, Ruth Whitfield still tried to visit her husband each day, taking days off only when she felt too debilitated to make the trip, her son said.

In a recent interview, Garnell Whitfield told ABC News his mother “never worked professionally. She stayed at home with us. She sacrificed her entire life, all of her dreams and aspirations to raise her family.”

“My dad worked two, sometimes three jobs in order to allow her to stay home. And my mom would be in our schools all the time when we were kids,” he added.

Roberta Drury, 32

Roberta Drury, who was also a regular shopper at Tops, was a “vibrant and outgoing” woman who could “talk to anyone,” her sister, Amanda Drury, told ABC News.

Roberta Drury was born in Cicero, New York, about 150 miles east of Buffalo, and moved to the city in 2010 after her oldest brother, Christopher Drury, received a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukemia. She helped her brother run his restaurant, The Dalmatia, and care for his family, Amanda Drury said.

She was picking up groceries for Christopher when she was fatally shot, her family said.

“When people ask, how many children do you have? I don’t know what to say. Will I ever be able to enjoy August 11th, her birthday. May 14th … how will my family ever have a nice thought of a beautiful spring day,” Dury’s mother, Leslie Vangiesen, said in February, as she gave a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for the killer, Payton Gendron. “How do I look at her Christmas stocking hanging every year.

“She was a beautiful girl,” a tearful Vangiesen added. “I think of her alone, laying on the pavement for hours. I’ve never been able to see or touch her after that day. My life has been profoundly changed. My life view is just saddened. Robbie’s family, my family, has been permanently damaged and there is no punishment that will ever reverse our loss.”

Aaron Salter Jr., 55

Aaron Salter Jr., a retired Buffalo police officer, was killed after he confronted the gunman, who entered the store wearing military fatigues, body armor and a tactical helmet.

Salter was working as a security guard and shot at the assailant, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told ABC News. But the bullets had no effect due to the bulletproof vest the suspect wore, and the gunman returned fire, striking Salter.

Gramaglia described Salter as a “true hero” who undoubtedly saved more lives during the encounter.

“He went down fighting,” Gramaglia said. “He came in, he went towards the gunfire. He went towards the fight.”

One Tops employee, Fragrance Harris Stanfield, a mother of seven, told ABC News that if it hadn’t been for Salter, she and her 20-year-old daughter, who was working at the register, would not have known the gunman was headed in their direction.

When she saw Salter pull out his weapon, they knew they had to run, and they both made it out alive, she said.

Salter was a “beloved” employee of Tops, several years after he retired from the police department.

“He took on a responsibility to protect the customers and the employees in the store,” Gramaglia said. “And he did exactly what he signed up for.”

During a Medal of Valor ceremony a few days after the massacre, President Joe Biden commended Salter, saying, he “gave his life trying to save others.”

Heyward Patterson, 67

Deacon Heyward Patterson was shot while inside his truck in the parking lot of the supermarket as he waited for a person he drove to Tops to pick up groceries, friends and relatives said.

Patterson’s family described him as a loving person, who left behind a wife and daughter.

“He didn’t deserve that. Our community didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that. It’s wrong,” Mercedes Patterson told ABC Buffalo affiliate station WKBW, describing her relative as “an honorable man. A family man. A working man. A community man. An honest man that was at a grocery store in a parking lot.”

Patterson was a deacon at the State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Buffalo.

Patterson would often drive people to Tops to do their shopping. He was doing just that on the day he was killed.

Following his funeral in May, his wife, Tirzah Patterson, stood next to her and her husband’s only son, Jake, and spoke to news reporters.

“This is his only son, who will carry on his name,” Tirzah Patterson said. “And everyday I have to pray and do a check in with him to make sure he’s not mentally all over the place. His heart is broken. As a mother, what am I supposed to do to help him get through this? I need a village to help me raise and be here for my son.”

Pearl Young, 77

Pearl Young, an Alabama native, spent the final years of her life teaching children as a substitute teacher in the Buffalo School District and was heavily involved in her church community, her sister, Mary Craig, told ABC News.

“She loved her students, and they loved her back,” according to a statement from her family shortly after her death.

Craig described Young as “such a beautiful, sweet woman.”

Young leaves behind two sons and a daughter, Craig said.

Young was described in the statement as a missionary who would be “truly missed.”

“Missionary Pearl Young was a worshipper and loved God. She loved her children, her family, and her Good-Samaritan COGIC church family,” the statement read. “She was a true pillar in the community.”

In a tribute, President Biden said of Young, “She touched the apple of God’s eye.”

Young’s daughter, Pamela Pritchett told ABC News she has found comfort in remembering how her mother lived. The devoted wife of a church pastor, a loving mother and grandmother. In addition to working as a substitute teacher, Young ran a food pantry for her church, Pritchett said.

Pritchett said she refuses to allow the May 14, 2022 killings “to be the defining moment of who my mother was.”

Geraldine Talley, 62

In her final moments, Geraldine Talley, who went to the Tops store that fateful afternoon for a few items, sent her fiancée down an aisle to retrieve something off a shelf.

Before they could reunite, the mass shooter entered the supermarket and opened fire. Her fiancée survived the massacre.

Talley’s last moments were described to ABC News by Kaye Chapman-Johnson, her younger sister, who was not at the store with the couple.

“Our sister, we had so many plans together, so many plans, and everything has just been stripped away from us,” Chapman-Johnson told ABC News. “Our lives will definitely never be the same again.”

Two years older, Talley, 62, was Chapman-Johnson’s “best friend,” her sister said. “We talked everyday.”

Talley was one of nine siblings and was “an amazing sister, mother, aunt,” said Chapman-Johnson. “She just was truly an amazing woman.”

Talley’s son, Mark Talley, told ABC News that his mother — who friends and relatives called “Gerri” — was known on the east side of Buffalo for her sweet and savory dishes, especially banana pudding cakes.

“She was always having company over,” Mark Talley said of his mother. “She would make all the customary Thanksgiving-type foods on a weekly basis.”

In a recent interview, he described his mother as an “extrovert.”

“She was the one calling up everybody, checking up on everybody, just constantly talking,” the 33-year-old Talley told ABC News.

Celestine Chaney, 65

Celestine Chaney, 65, was a mother and grandmother of six.

“My mom was in my corner for whatever, for better or worse,” Wayne Jones, Chaney’s only child, told ABC News in a recent interview.

Jones said his mother, who had survived breast cancer and two brain aneurysms, was killed while shopping for ingredients to make strawberry shortcake.

He said a cherished childhood memory was going with her to the store on the first of every month to buy everything needed for her favorite dessert.

“We were poor, so we got food stamps. That was probably the only time we could afford strawberry shortcake,” he said. “It’s ironic she would die at Tops trying to get that same dish. It’s just senseless.”

He said he will always remember his mother for her deep love for him.

“I’ve never felt the love that my grandmother and mother gave me,” Jones said. “That’s a love that was unconditional.”

Katherine “Kat” Massey, 72

Katherine “Kat” Massey was a civil rights activist who worked tirelessly to improve Buffalo’s Black community, her sister, Barbara Massey Mapps, told ABC News.

She said her sister was involved in up to 20 community organizations, including serving as the president of her block club.

“Kat was just a good person,” Mapps told ABC News in a recent interview. “She was just a normal, everyday person that cared about what was going on in her community, she cared about people. She wanted things to be better for everyone.

She described her sister as a “big advocate” for gun control. In one of the last opinion letters she wrote to the Buffalo News, Kat Massey said, “There needs to be extensive federal action/legislation to address all aspect of the issue. Current pursued remedies mainly inspired by mass killings — mainly 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.”

“And then to get killed by a gun, that’s just a …. the devil came to town,” Mapps said.

Mapps said her sister never had children of her own, but her many nieces and nephews considered her a second mom. She said her sister, in essence, adopted the children in the Buffalo Public Schools, secretly sending pizzas to classrooms, purchasing books and classroom supplies for children in her family and others in need.

“She loved kids in general, but Buffalo city kids, all 34,000, those were her children,” Mapps said of her sister, who worked for 40 years for the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance company.

Margus Morrison, 52

Margus Morrison was a “great father” and “wonderful person” who was always willing to help his family, his stepdaughter, Cassandra Demps, said in a text message to ABC News shortly after he was killed.

Morrison is “a soul that will always be missed,” Demps wrote.

Morrison was a father of six, who worked as a school bus aide for the Buffalo Public Schools District.

His brother, Frederick Morrison, described his sibling as “cool.”

“He was a bubble. A nice guy, full of energy,” Frederick Morrison told WKBW. “That was my dude. That smile, that energy, and a funny laugh. It was contagious.”

Andre Mackneil, 53

Andre Mackneil was at Tops shopping for his young son’s birthday party when he was gunned down in the rampage, his family said.

“He went to that store to pick up a cake for my little brother because May 14 was my little brother’s birthday. And he turned 3 years old and he didn’t get to celebrate his birthday with his dad because he never came back,” Mackneil’s daughter, Deja Brown, said while giving a victim impact statement at the killer’s sentencing hearing in February.

She called her father “my best friend, who was snatched from this world because of something he couldn’t change — the color of his skin.”

Brown said that even though they had been separated at one point in their lives, they later became “inseparable.”

“I called him for literally everything, especially when I wasn’t getting my way because I knew he would make a way,” Brown said at Gendron’s sentencing. “But most of all, I would be lost without him because I finally found somebody who understood me to a T. We thought a lot alike. And even though he had to be dad before friend, I always respected everything he said. He was so wise and he made the world easier to live in because he had all the answers to my wild questions.”

She said she always wanted to be around her father, and tagged along on nearly his every move.

“And the one time he leaves without me, he doesn’t come back,” she said. “After this happened, I constantly beat myself up about him going and I’m still pissed off because he wasn’t given a chance to fight. He was blindsided.”

ABC News’ Matt Foster and Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2022 and has been updated

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