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.
These were some of the lives cut short in a blaze of hate-fueled violence in Buffalo on Saturday.
The attack at a busy supermarket during which 10 people were killed and three were injured was an act of "pure evil," said Eric County Sheriff John Garcia. Authorities have described the shooting as a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism. They are also exploring a possible domestic terrorism charge. Eleven of the 13 people shot were Black.
According to police, 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 is the latest in a painful litany of violence driven by hate 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 Post investigation found, driven chiefly by white-supremacy, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists.
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 their neighborhood grocery store.
Here's what we know about those killed:
Pearl Young, 77
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.
#RIP Mother Pearl Young, a long time, faithful member of my denomination, the Church Of God In Christ.— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) May 15, 2022
Mother Young was a victim in the mass murder shooting spree in #BuffaloNY by #PaytonGendron, a white supremacist terrorist.
Condolences and prayers go out to her family. 🙏🏾🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/BkIa9Rqrjz
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 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," Young 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
Ruth Whitfield, 86
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 Friendly Markets, where she was killed.
"You hear about gun violence. You hear about a lot of these things all the time," her son, Garnell Whitfield, told The Washington Post. "And unfortunately, it's a little different when it impacts you personally."
Whitfield was described as the rock for the Whitfield family, devoting her life to taking her 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, Ruth 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 he 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
Katherine 'Kat' Massey, 72
Katherine 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 her 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 did everything from dress up in costume at the local public school to assist in local elections.
This is Katherine “Kat” Massey, 72 years old. Last year, she wrote a letter to Congress urging them to pass gun reform to save lives in her community and across the country.— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@NoLieWithBTC) May 16, 2022
Yesterday, she was killed in the Buffalo mass shooting. pic.twitter.com/thEajFy6Xn
"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," said Barbara Massey. 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 passed away. Until yesterday, 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, the local newspaper. Her sister said she wrote about schools, drugs and a topic she was concerned about: guns. - Michelle Boorstein
Described by Buffalo Police Chief 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 suspect and fired at him multiple times - but the bullet's struck the 18-year-old's bulletproof vest.
The security guard who died trying to stop the white supremacist who murdered those people at TOPS is named Aaron Salter Jr. Because I know the media isn't going to memorialize this man as a hero, I'm asking all of you to remember who he is and remember his sacrifice. pic.twitter.com/hLCokUIn2i— 🇯🇲Black🇭🇹 Aziz 🇳🇬aNANsi🇹🇹 (@Freeyourmindkid) May 15, 2022
"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-decades-long 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 of the self-described "jack of all trades a master of none" 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, 32
Roberta Drury, 32, 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.
The very first victim Roberta Drury, 32, was killed when a man opened fire at the supermarket on Saturday.— Jermaine Jones (@JermaineFBA_79) May 15, 2022
She lives in Syracuse and was visiting family.
She was in Buffalo to be with her older brother, who was recovering from a bone marrow transplant. pic.twitter.com/Jjw0EOgBjC
"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