Devout Christians among 10 killed by shooter at Buffalo grocery store in racially motivated attack

Buffalo Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. At least 10 people were killed after a mass shooting at the store with the shooter in police custody.
Buffalo Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. At least 10 people were killed after a mass shooting at the store with the shooter in police custody. | John Normile/Getty Images

A heavily armed 18-year-old man opened fire at a grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, Saturday, killing 10 people, including at least two Christian believers, and wounding three others in what the FBI described as a racially motivated hate crime. The self-described white supremacist shooter livestreamed the massacre before surrendering to police.

An 18-year-old white man wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying an assault-style rifle shot 13 people — two white and 11 black — at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo while livestreaming the attack in real time on the social media platform Twitch, Reuters reported.

The suspect, identified as Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, near the Pennsylvania border, who was reportedly a student at the State University of New York’s Broome Community College near Binghamton, drove several hours to come to Buffalo for the attack.

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Three people were killed at the supermarket’s parking lot and the seven others inside the store, including four store employees. The three who suffered injuries were said to be in stable condition.

At least two of those killed were Christian believers: 77-year-old Pearly Young and 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield.

“You were so sweet and beautiful on the inside and out! YOU REALLY DID LOVE THE LORD!!!!” wrote one Jimmie Smith on social media about Young’s killing.

Reporter Madison Carter tweeted, "For 25 years she ran a pantry where every Saturday she fed people in Central Park. Every. Saturday. She loved singing, dancing, & being with family. She was mother, grandma, & missionary. Gone too soon.”

Whitfield's son, retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield, was quoted as saying: "My mom was the consummate mom. My 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."

One of those killed was Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer who was working as the store’s security guard.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told media that Salter fired several times at the gunman but the bullets hit his bulletproof vest. “One of the individuals inside the store is a security guard, a beloved security guard, who is a retired Buffalo police officer — a hero in our eyes — he engaged the suspect and fired multiple shots,” Gramaglia was quoted as saying.

“This was pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said. “It was straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community.”

Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo Field Office, said the case is being considered a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism. 

"We will not stop until every lead is investigated, until every piece of evidence is analyzed, and until we understand how and why this horrible tragedy and crime occurred," Belongia said.

According to a 180-page white supremacist manifesto Gendron posted on social media, he was “radicalized” on the internet while he was bored during the early days of the pandemic, New York Post reported, adding that he saw low white birth rates around the world as a “crisis” that “will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.”

Gendron also referred to other racially motivated killings, saying he “mostly agreed” with Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who, in March 2019, livestreamed his attack in which he killed 51 people at a New Zealand mosque.

The manifesto also carried the details of his planned attack, including what he would eat — corned beef hash — for breakfast on the day of the attack, how he would drive and hold his gun.

The suspect wrote in the manifesto that he had been planning the attack since January, and that he targeted the Tops Supermarket because “it has the highest black population percentage” and it’s not too far away from his home.

Gendron, who pleaded not guilty, has been charged with murder in the first degree. He is scheduled to appear in court next Thursday.

“We are devastated to hear about the shooting that took place this afternoon in Buffalo, New York,” Twitch, the streaming service company, said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the community impacted by this tragedy. Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents. The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”

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