During his 30 years as a Buffalo police officer, Aaron Salter Jr. a reputation for bravery, with more than one of his exploits being featured in the local newspaper, The Buffalo News. He once pursued an arsonist, the newspaper reported, and on another occasion encountered a burglar armed with a shotgun.
Mr. Salter retired in 2018 and switched to a job that should have been a lot less treacherous: working as a security guard at the Tops supermarket in East Buffalo.
But on Saturday, Mr Salter, 55, was to face another situation that would test his courage when a man — wearing body armor and camouflage clothing and armed with an assault weapon — burst into the supermarket and opened fire.
mr. Salter confronted the gunman and fired back. But he became one of 10 people, including three other store employees and several shoppers, killed in one of the deadliest racist massacres in US history.
At least three others were injured and nearly all of the victims, including Mr. Salter, were black.
The suspect in the attack, Payton S. Gendron, 18, who was taken into custody, had expressed admiration for white supremacist ideology, authorities said.
In addition to Mr Salter, the names of those fatally shot by authorities on Sunday night were released: Celestine Chaney, 65, of Buffalo; Roberta A. Drury, 32, of Buffalo; Andre Mackneil, 53, of Auburn, NY; Katherine Massey, 72, of Buffalo; Margus D. Morrison, 52, of Buffalo; Heyward Patterson, 67, of Buffalo; Geraldine Talley, 62, of Buffalo; Ruth Whitfield, 86, of Buffalo; and Pearl Young, 77, of Buffalo.
The people injured included Christopher Braden, 55, of Lackawanna, NY; Zaire Goodman, 20, of Buffalo; and Jennifer Warrington, 50, of Tonawanda, NY
More details about many of the victims emerged on Sunday.
According to Erie County director Mark Poloncarz, a bullet that bounced through Mr. Salter had been fired at the gunner’s body armor.
“He’s a real hero, and we don’t know what prevented him,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said of Mr. Salter, speaking on ABC’s “This Week”. “There could have been more victims if he hadn’t acted.”
The son of mr. Salter, Aaron Salter III, said in an interview that his father “has been a police officer for 30 years and nothing like this has ever happened.”
“He was just doing a security job and that guy had to come in there and take all these innocent lives for no reason at all,” his son said.
He described his father as a ‘car driver’. When Mr. Salter retired from the police force, he bought a 1967 Cadillac Coupe DeVille, which he repaired, polished and cleaned in his spare time.
“He told me one day it would be mine,” his son said, “but I didn’t want it this way.”
Mr. Salter and his wife also had a motor home, which they used to take their family on a trip. They had three children, including an adopted daughter.
His son said he planned to go to his parents’ house on Sunday.
“He told me he would call me today to tell me if I should come or not,” he said. “And now we are here.”
Here are the stories of some of the other victims:
Katherine Massey, 72: Ms. Massey was known for her advocacy for civil rights. Nearly a year ago, after a state legislator’s nephew was fatally shot near the legislature’s district office, Ms. Massey had written a letter to the editor in The Buffalo News calling for tougher federal gun control measures. She called for greater accountability from firearms makers and sellers. “Comprehensive federal action/legislation is needed to address all aspects of the problem,” she wrote.
Ruth Whitfield, 86: Ms. Whitfield was a devoted parishioner at Durham Memorial AME Zion Church for 50 years, where she sang in the choir, her daughter-in-law Cassietta Whitfield said. Ruth Whitfield had lived in Buffalo for more than five decades and raised four children. For the past few years she had cared for her husband, who was in a nursing home. She had eight grandchildren. “She was a religious woman who cared deeply about her family,” her daughter-in-law said.
Roberta Drury, 32: According to her sister, Amanda Drury, Mrs. Drury had gone to the Tops supermarket to do some shopping for dinner. “She was very lively,” said Mrs. Drury. “She was always the center of attention and made the whole room smile and laugh.”
Celestine Chaney, 65: Ms. Chaney was visiting her sister and they went to the grocery store because Ms. Chaney wanted to get strawberries to make shortcakes, which she loved, said her son, Wayne Jones, 48, who confirmed she had died in the shooting. “It’s kind of crazy that she was there shopping because we’re going shopping together,” he said.
During the shooting, Ms. Chaney’s sister reached the cooler area where workers store fresh food, Mr. Jones said. People hid there from the shooter; the sister survived. “But my mom can’t really walk like she used to,” he said. “She can’t actually run.”
Ms. Chaney was a single mother and worked at a costume manufacturer and then made baseball caps before retiring. Mr. Jones was her only child and she had six grandchildren.
Heyward Patterson, age 67: mr. Patterson would go to the grocery store daily and give people rides for less money than they would have had to spend on a taxi or ride-sharing service, his grandniece Teniqua Clark said.
That’s how he earned money to support three children, his cousin Terrell Clark said.
He was helping someone load groceries into the trunk of a car when he was killed, she said. “He didn’t even have a chance to run,” Mrs. Clark said. “He hasn’t had a chance at all.”
Mr. Patterson, who had lived in the Buffalo area all his life and was in his late 50s or early 60s, was a nice person who was “family oriented” and loved to sing at church, said Ms. Clark.
“To have this happen to him, especially since it’s a racially profiled hate crime, I never imagined it would be him,” she said. “He’s very harmless.”
Dan Higgins and Chris Cameron reporting contributed.