An 86-year-old African-American grandmother who was doing some weekend grocery shopping has been named as one of the ten victims who died in the Buffalo supermarket killing on Saturday afternoon.
Ruth Whitfield, was a mother to four children including former Buffalo fire commissioner, Garnell W. Witfield, 64. She was the second victim to be named – the first being retired cop turned security guard Aaron Salter Jr.
‘My mom was the consummate mom. Mother was a mother to the motherless. She was a blessing to all of us. She loved God and taught us to do the same thing,’ the former commissioner told the Buffalo News.
Witfield recalled how his 88-year-old father who is currently in a Buffalo nursing home would work multiple jobs in order for his wife to stay home and raise the couple’s kids.
Ruth Witfield, 86, the mother of former Buffalo fire commissioner Garnell Witfield was killed in the shooting spree
‘She’d take my brother and I to football practice, twice a day sometimes, and she never missed a game. And that was just us. She did that kind of thing for all the children.’
Witfield explained how his mother would continue to take care of her husband despite being in a residential home.
‘She went there every day. She took care of our dad as she’d done her whole married life. She brought him clean clothes, clipped his nails, shaved him, cut his hair. She did everything,’ Whitfield said.
He also told how his mother’s faith inspired him and pushed him in his career with the Buffalo Fire Department.
‘She inspired me to be a man of God, and to do whatever I do the best I could do. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.’
Retired Buffalo Police Department cop Aaron Salter, pictured right, was working as a store security guard and shot Gendron, who returned fire and killed Salter
Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron is pictured at his arraignment hearing Saturday night, after being charged with a single count of first-degree murder. Further charges are almost certain to follow
Aaron Salter Jr, a former Buffalo police officer for 30 years, who was working as security guard inside the store was also named as one of the victim’s of the shooting.
The father of three is being hailed as a hero after exchanging gunfire with shooter 18-year-old Payton Gendron inside the supermarket.
Salter Jr. had worked at the Tops Friendly Markets store for the last four years.
When the gunman walked in with an assault rifle Salter pulled out his own weapon and attempted to take down the gunman.
But Salter’s bullets were unable to pierce Gendron’s body armor. Grendon returned fire, killing Salter.
‘Today is a shock,’ his son, Aaron Salter III, told The Daily Beast. ‘I’m pretty sure he saved some lives today. He’s a hero.’
Salter had joined the Buffalo Police Department straight out of high school.
One of Salter’s cousins, Adam Bennefield, said the family was extremely shaken up by what had happened.
‘I don’t think anybody could ever anticipate something like this happening,’ Bennefield, 44, said. ‘I don’t think anybody can. Everybody’s hurt right now, everybody’s upset.’
Payton Gendron is arrested Saturday after killing 10 people at a Tops Market supermarket in Buffalo, Upstate New York. Police say the massacre was motivated by the 18 year-old’s hatred for black people. Eleven of those shot were African-American
Outside of his police and security work, Salter was said to be interested in green energy and had set up his own company.
‘I’m always working on my vehicles and or my project of running engines on water for the last four years or so,’ he wrote on LinkedIn. ‘I would like to realize my dream of getting cars to run off of water using my newly discovered energy source some day.’
In 2019, his son Aaron Jr had shared fears of a mass shooting on Facebook after an incident in which a white gunman traveled hours across the state of Texas and killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, where the vast majority of the population is Hispanic.
‘If i hear another story of someone mass shooting innocent people or like yesterday the 20 year old in Missouri who when to Walmart with and assault rifle and 100 rounds and recorded himself making comments to people shopping I’m gonna loose my mind we can’t even do everyday s*** without having to watch our backs and that’s scary af! The sad thing is I feel like a crazy close to home is gonna do something soon and I’m not ready for that. We as people of the so called USA need to do better this s*** is nuts!’
On Saturday evening, it was revealed how Grendon’s shooting was ‘racially motivated’ and that he had live-streamed the attack on camera.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown takes a moment of silence and prayer following the shooting
The gunman, who was wearing body armor and a helmet, was arrested after the massacre, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news conference.
Eleven of the victims were African Americans.
The gunman shot four people in the parking lot of the Tops supermarket, three of them fatally, then went inside and continued firing, Gramaglia said.
When police arrived, the shooter put the gun to his neck, but was talked down and surrendered.
Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office, told the news conference that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
‘We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism,’ Belongia said.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia speaks at a press conference after the shooting
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described the attack as ‘pure evil.’
‘It was straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community,’ he said.
When asked what information led authorities to term the attack a hate crime, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said they had evidence indicating ‘racial animosity,’ but declined to elaborate.
US media outlets have reported that officials are investigating a detailed ‘manifesto’ that was posted online before the shooting, in which the suspect outlines his plans and racial motivations for the attack.
A semi-automatic weapon used by the shooter also had a racial epithet written on it as well as the number 14 — a reference to a white supremacist phrase — according to local daily The Buffalo News, citing a local official.
District Attorney Flynn said in the press conference that the shooter used an ‘assault weapon’ — a term that can apply to types of rifles and shotguns in New York — but did not specify which kind.
Flynn’s office said in a tweet Saturday night that the suspect — identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York — had been arraigned on a charge of first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life without parole. He is being held without bail.
Asked during the earlier press conference if the shooter could face the death penalty at the federal level, the US attorney for the Western District of New York, Trini Ross, said: ‘All options are on the table as we go forward with the investigation.’
Among those killed inside the Buffalo store was a retired police officer working as an armed security guard
Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo — which is located in western New York State, along the US border with Canada — said the shooter ‘traveled hours from outside this community to perpetrate this crime.’
‘This is a day of great pain for our community,’ Brown said.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said US President Joe Biden had been briefed on the ‘horrific shooting.’
Biden ‘will continue to receive updates throughout the evening and tomorrow as further information develops. The president and the first lady are praying for those who have been lost and for their loved ones,’ Jean-Pierre added.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senior US senator from New York, said in a tweet: ‘We are standing with the people of Buffalo.’
The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, described the killings as a ‘horrific white supremacist shooting’ in a tweet that also praised the grocery store security guard as ‘a true hero.’
A spokesperson for streaming service Twitch confirmed how the shooter used the service to broadcast the attack.
‘We have investigated and confirmed that we removed the stream less than two minutes after the violence started,’ the spokesperson said, adding: ‘We are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.’
Police respond to the scene of a shooting in the parking lot of a supermarket where ten people were killed in the shooting
The Buffalo shooting follows other recent instances of racially motivated mass killings in the United States.
In 2019, a white gunman traveled hours across the state of Texas and killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, where the vast majority of the population is Hispanic.
Four years earlier, in Charleston, South Carolina, a white man opened fire in an African American church, killing nine.
In both instances, the men posted hate-filled manifestos online before their shooting rampages.
Despite recurring mass-casualty shootings and a nationwide wave of gun violence, multiple initiatives to reform gun regulations have failed in the US Congress, leaving states and local councils to enact their own restrictions.
The United States suffered 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, up nearly 35 percent compared to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest data.