A grandmother who volunteered every weekend at her church’s food pantry. An octogenarian who was a devoted caregiver to her husband of 68 years. A retired police officer and amateur inventor who tried to stop the shooter.
The attack at a busy supermarket where 10 people were killed and three were injured was an act of “pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said. Eleven of the 13 people shot were Black.
In Buffalo and beyond, family members of the victims were grappling with a loss that was both sudden and incomprehensibly cruel — mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters targeted for the color of their skin, gone in a hail of bullets at a neighborhood grocery store.
The suspect, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, is believed to have published a lengthy online document riddled with racist, antisemitic and white supremacist beliefs. The text detailed plans for the attack, including the intent to target a predominantly Black neighborhood. Gendron has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder.
The mass shooting appears to be the latest in a painful litany of violence driven by hatred and racism. They include attacks on a Black church in Charleston in 2015, a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 and a Walmart in El Paso in 2019. Domestic terrorism incidents have soared nationwide in recent years, a Washington Post investigation found, driven chiefly by white supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists.
Here’s what we know about those killed in Buffalo:
For years, Young spent every Saturday morning the same way: volunteering at a food pantry run by her church.
She helped prepare and hand out boxes of food from the Good Samaritan Church of God in Christ at an outpost in a Buffalo park, according to her son, Damon Young. She relished interacting with her community and viewed volunteering as part of her religious duty.
“My mom just felt that she needed to give back to people,” said Damon Young, 48.
Born in Fayette, Ala., Pearl Young spent much of her life in Buffalo, where she was a “strict but loving” mother to Damon and his older brother and sister. She was “full of joy,” her son said — “she just loved life, and she loved the church.” She loved children, too, and was a proud grandmother to eight. At 77 years old, she was still working as a high school substitute teacher.
She and her son had a shared fondness for ambrosia salad, which they’d prepare and eat together, though she “couldn’t go as hard as me later in life” after becoming diabetic. And she was a longtime fan of the soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” When he picked her up for errands or outings, Damon Young said, “she would always tell me, ‘Wait until ‘The Young and the Restless’ goes off. Pick me up after that.’”
The day of the shooting, Pearl Young went out to breakfast and asked to be dropped off at the Tops Friendly Markets afterward to shop. Damon was planning on picking her up, and the two had been communicating back and forth. Then she stopped responding and his phone began buzzing with news alerts about the chaos unfolding at the store.
“She wasn’t answering, wasn’t calling back,” he said. “They said it was some people wounded as well, so I was kind of hoping for that.”
At a school where authorities shared updates with families, he learned his mom had been fatally shot. He said he just wanted to get out of there and cried on his way to his sister’s house.
He spent Sunday talking to detectives and family and trying to sort out funeral plans. It felt surreal. His mom should have been headed to work on Monday. She was just telling him about a bonus she was close to getting as the end of the school year approached, joking, “Yeah, I’ll be rich.”
He was up until 3 a.m. crying and sifting through his memories.
“My mom was good,” Damon Young said. “She was a good person, man. She was.” — Brittany Shammas
Whitfield was a “blessing for all those who knew her,” said her son, retired Buffalo fire commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield.
The 86-year-old mother had spent the day taking care of her husband at the nursing home where he resides. On the way home, she stopped at Tops, where she was killed.
“You hear about gun violence. You hear about a lot of these things all the time,” her son Garnell told The Post. “And unfortunately, it’s a little different when it impacts you personally.”
Whitfield was described as the rock for the family, devoting her life to taking care of her four children and husband.
“She could have probably done a number of other things with her life and with her talents, but she chose to use them on us,” her son said. “I’m very thankful for the example she set for us of how to love each other unconditionally and how to sacrifice our own desires, our own opportunities, for someone that we care about.”
For the past eight years, Whitfield’s days had been spent taking care of her husband of 68 years after he was placed on a long-term care facility. She would constantly cut his hair, iron his clothes, dress him and shave him.
“There’s very few days that she did not spend time with him attending to him,” her son said. “She was his angel.”
Now her family is grappling with the loss of a person who “exemplified unconditional love,” he added.
“We have to rally as a family around my father and make sure that he’s well cared for,” he said. “Something she would be proud of us for. So we’ve got a big task ahead of us.” — María Luisa Paúl
Mackniel was among those killed in the shooting, his daughter Deja Brown said. She was too distraught to speak further. Jahon Smith, Mackniel’s cousin, said in an email that he was going to the supermarket to get a birthday cake for his son when he was killed. Smith described Mackniel as selfless and generous, a loving father and grandfather who used to check in on everyone. Smith said Mackniel’s brother had died earlier due to a brief illness, which was a devastating loss for his cousin. “This is a very hard time for the family,” Smith said. “I hope justice is served.”
Tracey Maciulewicz identified herself on Facebook as Mackniel’s fiancee and said that it was her son’s birthday on 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. Maciulewicz did not immediately respond to requests from The Post. — Joanna Slater and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel
Massey was so tight with her siblings, they even shared a street.
On Saturday, Massey asked her brother Warren to drop her off at Tops to do some shopping, asking him to return in 45 minutes. “I came back and they were putting out the tape,” Warren Massey told The Post on Sunday. “I knew she was gone when she didn’t call us.”
Choking back tears, Barbara Massey described Kat, the oldest of five children, as “the glue” of a very close family. She was a well-known community figure who dressed up in costume at the local public school and assisted in elections.
“She was the most wonderful person in the world. She’d cut grass in the local park, do the trees, give kids on the street toys. That was my sister, anyone she could help,” Barbara Massey said. Nearby, relatives passed around cellphones, trying to reach officials who could tell them where Kat’s body was.
Massey and her family grew up on Cherry Street in Buffalo, she said. Barbara and Warren lived there their whole lives; Kat had moved back about 13 years ago when their parents died. Until Saturday, three of the five were still living. She renovated the house and spruced up the neighborhood.
“She loved the triangle. That’s her pet. She did the flowers,” she said. “Her biggest thing were the schools.” Barbara broke down as she described her sister renting a costume as “Ms. Broccoli” — “for children to learn to eat right.”
Massey wrote sometimes for the Buffalo Challenger, a local newspaper. Her sister said she wrote about schools, drugs and a topic she was concerned about: guns. — Michelle Boorstein
Chaney, 65, was a survivor, her son Wayne Jones said.
When Jones was around 12, he remembers, he was called out of school twice about his mother, who suffered from brain aneurysms. He would have to leave class to go to the hospital, where he was told she wouldn’t make it through the day, Jones said.
“My grandmother had me go to the foot of her bed and pray both times,” Jones said. “And we made it to 65.”
Born and raised on the east side of Buffalo, Chaney was a single mother and worked at a suit manufacturing company and a baseball cap company, her son said. She was retired.
Chaney also survived breast cancer after undergoing chemotherapy, Jones said. She would often watch her six grandchildren at her home and was a mother figure to her niece, Latisha Meadows, 40.
“She’s very loving, kind, always there to talk,” Meadows said. Her aunt, affectionately known as “Aunt Stiney,” loved family gatherings, cookouts and playing spades, she said.
The family recently celebrated her 65th birthday on May 6 with a dinner with her granddaughter and then a special Mother’s Day “Paint and Sip” at Jones’s house, featuring a home-cooked dinner of beef ribs, macaroni and cheese, greens and other family favorites.
“She was a beautiful person, a spunky, independent woman,” Jones said of his mom. “The life of the party, just a joy to be around.”
Chaney and her sister Joann Daniels, who survived the shooting, were very close, Meadows said. From shopping to paying a visit to each other’s homes, Daniels and Chaney were “always together, all the time,” Meadows said. Chaney was the youngest of four sisters. Now Daniels is the last surviving sibling. — Jasmine Hilton
Frederick Morrison, 49, was outside enjoying his Saturday when people started talking about a shooting at Tops Friendly Market. It was the grocery store where his older brother Margus D. Morrison, 52, did his regular shopping.
When Frederick learned Margus was killed, “I broke down,” he said.
Margus Morrison was a father, husband and school bus aide. Frederick said Margus liked his job and described him as a fun, lovable guy with a nice spirit who liked to joke. While the brothers did not actively discuss racism, “we just know it’s there,” Frederick said.
Just a couple of years apart, the two grew up “tight like best friends,” Frederick said. “It hurts me so much right now because I wasn’t expecting to lose him.” The younger Morrison says their mother, Theresa, is holding up strong. He’d like his brother to be remembered for his good energy. “He was a joy to be around,” he said. — Natalie Compton
Patterson grew up surrounded by a close-knit extended family just blocks from where he was killed. They all called him “Boy Tenny” — a nickname so ingrained that his cousin couldn’t recall its origin.
“I never called him by his government name. He was always Boy Tenny, and I never asked any questions on why,” said 54-year-old Deborah Patterson, laughing. “We just knew he loved us.”
Family members have been stunned by the violence inflicted on a community they know so well, she said, describing it as “one of the last places we’d expect something like that to happen.”
They were not surprised that Tenny (pronounced “Teeny”) was there. He often drove members of his church to Tops, helping them load their groceries into his car and then taking them home. “That’s what he did all the time,” Deborah Patterson said. “That’s what he loved to do.”
He was one of those neighborhood characters that everyone seemed to know, said Yvonda King, who had known him since childhood. “One of the OGs of the ‘hood,” she called him. He was well dressed, gentlemanly and sprightly — “a real-life, down-to-earth man.”
Deborah Patterson said her “big cousin” was a family man. Just days ago, he had stopped by her mother’s house with a gift: a T-shirt that read, “God bless my Auntie.” Their fathers were twins who were close enough they lived down the street from one another, and he was always around growing up. In adulthood, she said, he was a devoted dad.
He loved his church, where he served as a deacon and gained another nickname, “Deac.” He also loved singing. Family said he sounded like Smokey Robinson; one relative said he was like the famous singer, only better. They have vivid memories of him singing “O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps.
“Oh my gosh, his voice is like heaven-sent,” Deborah Patterson said. “R&B, church songs — anything. He was great at it. If you were sad and heard him singing, you would definitely have a smile on your face.”
When she first heard of the shooting, she didn’t believe it. A day later, she said, she was “still trying to really get a hold of it being true.” She recounted instances of racism she has encountered — “the locking of peoples’ doors” and “the clenching of purses.” But she never thought it would hit like this.
“I just don’t understand how at the age of 18 — how did he get so much hate in such a short period of life?” Deborah Patterson asked of the shooting suspect. “My mind is just, like, somewhere,” she added.
She was trying to find comfort in picturing Tenny helping with groceries in heaven, and in an old Patterson family saying: “We never say ‘Goodbye’ — always ‘In a minute.’” — Brittany Shammas and Silvia Foster-Frau
Described by Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia as “a hero in our eyes,” Salter was the security guard on duty when the gunman began his deadly barrage inside the supermarket.
Gramaglia said Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer, tried taking down the gunman and fired at him multiple times — but the bullets struck the shooter’s bulletproof vest.
“I’m pretty sure he saved some lives today,” Salter’s son, Aaron Salter III, told the Daily Beast. “He’s a hero.”
Apart from having a three-decade career in law enforcement, Salter — who described himself as a “jack of all trades a master of none” in his LinkedIn profile — was working on a project to build cars with engines that ran on clean energy.
“I would like to realize my dream of getting cars to run off of water using my newly discovered energy source some day,” Salter wrote on his LinkedIn profile.
That “newly discovered energy source” was hydrogen-electrolysis, a process that splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
Salter was inspired to undertake that project amid a 2011 spike in gas prices, he said in an interview. After scouting the Internet for alternative energy sources, he ran across hydrogen-electrolysis — a pique in interest that eventually turned into a company called AWS Hydrogen Technologies and three working prototypes, he said.
In a YouTube video posted in 2015, Salter — tinkering on his 2010 Ford F-150 pickup truck — demonstrated how the system worked. In a few years, he predicted, scientists and engineers would find that cars could run on water.
For his family members, the loss was unimaginable.
“I don’t think anybody could ever anticipate something like this happening,” Salter’s cousin Adam Bennefield told the Daily Beast. “I don’t think anybody can. Everybody’s hurt right now, everybody’s upset.” — María Luisa Paúl
Roberta Drury was a helper.
The youngest of four siblings, she moved from Syracuse to Buffalo in 2010 to assist her oldest brother and help care for his children as he underwent treatment for leukemia.
“She dropped everything to move out there and play house aunt,” said their sister, Amanda Drury, 34. “She was really proud of being able to step in for the family.”
Roberta stayed on as her brother’s home aide and business partner; together they had been rehabilitating an old bar he had bought, the Dalmatia.
“The two of them decided to jump in and try to revive it,” Amanda said, adding that post-pandemic business was just beginning to pick up. The extended family is close: Every summer, their mother rents a house in Wildwood, N.J. “We all spend a week together and Robbie’s always been right there, making lunch, keeping her eye on the little ones,” Amanda said, adding that plans were already in place for the gathering this July. “It’s going to be tough.”
As an African American child adopted at 18 months into a suburban White family, Roberta was no stranger to racism, her sister said. But in their family, she said, “race never mattered. So this is just ugly on a level that as a family we can barely wrap our heads around.” — Tara Bahrampour
It’s fitting that people described Talley, or “Gerri,” as the sweetest. An avid baker, her Facebook page is filled with desserts made for loved ones, like cream cheese apple cinnamon bread pudding, chocolate peanut butter pie and strawberry filled cupcakes.
Talley was at the supermarket with her fiance Gregory Allen running their Saturday errands. According to an interview with Buffalo News, Allen said the couple had split up to grab different items when the shooting began.
Kaye Chapman-Johnson, Talley’s younger sister, told ABC News, that their family is destroyed by her death. “Our sister, we had so many plans together, so many plans, and everything has just been stripped away from us,” she said in the interview. “Our lives will definitely never be the same again.” — Natalie Compton