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Relatives of 86-year-old woman killed in Buffalo shooting break down in tears

The relatives of a woman who was killed in a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket broke down in tears as they remembered their loving mother and grandmother on Monday – as it was revealed that the suspected shooter was previously confronted by a security guard at the store.

Ruth Whitfield, 86, was the oldest of 10 victims killed in the mass shooting on Saturday afternoon. 

She was on her way back from visiting her husband at a nursing home and decided to stop at the Tops Friendly Markets store to get something to eat, WGRZ previously reported when 18-year-old Payton Gendron allegedly opened fire.

Her family described her on Monday as a loving wife of 68 years, and a devoted mother of four, as they were overcome with emotions.

She went to visit her husband everyday in the nursing home where he’s lived for the past eight years, Garnell Whitfield, former Buffalo fire chief said, telling reporters on Monday she ‘gave of herself when she had nothing left to give.’

Now, he said, he doesn’t know how to tell his father that his primary caregiver is gone.

‘There’s nothing we can do that’s going to take away the hurt, take away the pain, take away the hole in our hearts, because part of us is gone,’ he said at a Monday news conference.

‘For her to be taken from us and taken from this world by someone that’s just full of hate for no reason… it is very hard for us to handle right now.’

Ruth Whitfield, 86, was the oldest of the victims killed in a mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York supermarket on Saturday

Ruth Whitfield, 86, was the oldest of the victims killed in a mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York supermarket on Saturday

Tiffany Whitfield, a granddaughter of Ruth's, broke down in tears during a news conference about her on Monday

Tiffany Whitfield, a granddaughter of Ruth’s, broke down in tears during a news conference about her on Monday

Family members described Ruth as a loving and caring mother and grandmother, who visited her husband, Garnell Whitfield Sr. every day at the nursing home

Family members described Ruth as a loving and caring mother and grandmother, who visited her husband, Garnell Whitfield Sr. every day at the nursing home

Family members tried to console one another during the press conference as they called for justice

Family members tried to console one another during the press conference as they called for justice

He added that what he loved most about his mother ‘is how much she loved our family, unconditionally, how she sacrificed everything for us.’

Ruth’s daughter, Robin Harris, also described her mother as her ‘best friend,’ talking about how they would go fishing and camping together,’ and another daughter, Angela Crowley, said Ruth was ‘an 86-year-old power-house.’

‘She was beautiful, she was immaculate,’ Angela said at the news conference, as Ruth’s granddaughter said ‘she was somebody you could talk to without being judged.’

‘We’re not just hurting – we’re angry,’ Garnell told the reporters at the news conference. ‘This shouldn’t have happened.

‘We do our best to be good citizens … we believe in God, we trust him, we treat people with decency and we love even our enemies.’

He added that he is now speaking out in hopes of contributing to positive change.

‘We need help,’ he pleaded. ‘We’re asking you to help us, help us change this.

‘This can’t keep happening.’ 

Angela Crowley described her mother as 'an 86-year-old power-house' as she spoke about her love for Ruth

Angela Crowley described her mother as ‘an 86-year-old power-house’ as she spoke about her love for Ruth

Her son, Garnell Whitfield Jr, a former Buffalo police chief, said he was speaking out in hopes of contributing to positive change

Her son, Garnell Whitfield Jr, a former Buffalo police chief, said he was speaking out in hopes of contributing to positive change

Robin Harris, the eldest daughter of Ruth's, prayed to her mother and told reporters how her mother was her 'best friend'

Robin Harris, the eldest daughter of Ruth’s, prayed to her mother and told reporters how her mother was her ‘best friend’

At the news conference, famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump called out United States leaders for failing to protect black Americans as he called Saturday’s shooting ‘an act of domestic terrorism.’

He pointed to a 180-page manifesto that Gendron reportedly posted before going on his rampage, which included a plan to drive several counties away to carry out the shooting.

Buffalo shooter ‘believed replacement theory that white people’s influence is being diminished in the United States’ 

Payton Gendron, 18, reportedly posted online about the ‘Great Replacement Theory,’ which claims there is a conspiracy afoot to diminish the influence of white people.

Believers of the creed say the goal is being achieved both through immigration of nonwhite people into societies that have been largely dominated by white people in the past.

The most ardent supporters, ABC News reports, believe Jews are behind the great replacement.

But a more mainstream view holds that Democrats are encouraging immigration from Latin American countries, so more like-minded potential voters could replace ‘traditional’ American voters.

Gendron reportedly identified himself as a white supremacist in the document, explaining his fears that white people are being replaced by other races. 

A preliminary investigation also found that Gendron repeatedly visited websites espousing white supremacist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories – and extensively researched the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the man who killed dozens at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, an official said.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Gendron had traveled about 200 miles to Buffalo and targeted this particular grocery store, but investigators believe Gendron had specifically researched the demographics of the population around the grocer and had been searching for communities with a high number of black residents. 

Police said Gendron, wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera, shot a total of 11 black people and two white people in Saturday’s rampage before surrendering to authorities. Screenshots purporting to be from the Twitch broadcast appear to show a racial epithet scrawled on the rifle used in the attack, as well as the number 14, a likely reference to a white supremacist slogan.

‘There is no question about his intentions,’ Crump said on Monday, describing ‘racism and hate’ a terrorist act as he compared Gendron’s alleged manifesto to the ramblings of Osama bin Laden.

He called out against the ‘accomplices to the mass murder’ and the spread of the so-called Race Replacement theory that he is indoctrinating young people – referring in part to websites, politicians and cable news pundits.

‘Even though they didn’t pull the trigger, they did load the gun for the young white supremacist,’ he said. 

‘We intend to not only hold accountable this sick, depraved monster for his hateful act, but we intend to hold those accountable for the root of the hate. If we don’t get to the root of the hate, sadly I believe we will be back here again grieving the loss of other innocent black people.’

Crump also used the opportunity to call for the passage of an Anti-Black Hate Crime law, saying: ‘Black America is suffering right now,’ and adding: ‘All of the red flags were there.’

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn has already said officials are considering charging Gendron with domestic terrorism. 

‘We’re looking at potentially multiple additional charges to be filed,’ Flynn told Fox News. ‘We are looking at domestic terrorism charges, we are looking at hate crime charges, there’s actually a charge in New York State called domestic terrorism motivated by hate. So, that charge right there encompasses the actual terrorism and the hate charge together, all in one charge.’

The alleged killer, who is due back in court on Thursday, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges.

He is now on  suicide watch after he ‘put the gun under his chin’ as though to shoot himself following Saturday’s attack. Officers managed to ‘talk him down’ and arrest him. 

Gendron is being held in a separate unit from other inmates.

Suspected gunman Payton Gendron was taken into policy custody outside the Tops in Buffalo on Saturday

Suspected gunman Payton Gendron was taken into policy custody outside the Tops in Buffalo on Saturday

Gendron allegedly murdered 10 people in a 'racist hate crime ' at the supermarket on Saturday. People are seen gathering outside the store after the shooting

Gendron allegedly murdered 10 people in a ‘racist hate crime ‘ at the supermarket on Saturday. People are seen gathering outside the store after the shooting

1652737830 211 Relatives of 86 year old woman killed in Buffalo shooting break down

Meanwhile, it was revealed on Monday that Gendron was previously confronted by a security guard at the supermarket as he was apparently canvassing the area to plan his attack.

A document posted online last month by an author who identified himself as Payton Gendron detailed his efforts to scope out the area on March 8, and says he was confronted by a black security guard who asked him: ‘I’ve seen you go in and out. What are you doing?’

Gendron reportedly replied that he was ‘collecting consensus data’ before making up an excuse and returning to his car, the Washington Post reports. He added: ‘In hindsight, that was a close call.’

The  confrontation was described in a 598-page document posted online on April 29, which, the Post reports, referred to the Tops supermarket as ‘attack area 1’ and describes two more Buffalo locations as other attack areas to ‘shoot all blacks.’

He allegedly spelled out his travel plans to each of these locations, wrote about the timing he would need for each shootout, and estimated in the document that he would fatally shoot more than three dozen people. He also reportedly wrote about how the guards, two of whom were black, patrolled the area.

It also allegedly included detailed sketches of the Tops supermarket store layout, noting that on March 8 there were ‘many blacks’ at the cashier’s area of the store, and in total there were 53 black people and six white people inside the store at the time.

And the document reportedly referenced several events in Gendron’s personal life, including the fact that he got a speeding ticket – which the Washington Post was able to confirm. 

The document was presented as a compilation of messages posted between November and April on the messaging site Discord by a user named ‘jimboboiii,’ a username Gendron had used in the past on other platforms, according to the Post.

It was then uploaded to the filesharing platform Mediafire by an anonymous account on April 29, and was available for anyone to download until Monday morning.

It was eventually taken down after the Post contacted Mediafire for comment, the outlet reports, with Derek Labian, the chief executive of the company, saying that the account was disabled and records from it have been preserved for law enforcement.

All ten of of the victims have been named by family members by Sunday. They are all black

All ten of of the victims have been named by family members by Sunday. They are all black

In total, Gendron allegedly killed 10 people and injured three others in the attack before he was taken down by police officers.

Among those who were killed was security guard Aaron Salter – a retired Buffalo police officer – who fired multiple shots at Gendron. A bullet hit the gunman’s armor, but had no effect. Gendron then killed Salter, before hunting more victims.

President Joe Biden on Monday paid tribute to the fallen security guard as he honored 15 public safety officers, including two officers who died in the line of duty, during a ceremony in the East Room.

‘He gave his life when a gunman shot and killed 10 innocent people in a grocery store in Buffalo on Saturday. He was actually able to shoot the assailant twice but he had on a bulletproof vest. He lost his life in the process,’ Biden said at the Medal of Valor event at the White House.

The Medal of Valor is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect others from harm. 

‘No one understands more than all of you here today the pain and anguish all the families in Buffalo feel,’ Biden said. 

‘You are part of a special community because fire fighters and police officers will always be there for you,’ he said. ‘I want to say a special thanks to you all for being here because I know it’s hard.’

Several of the other victims of Saturday’s brutal shooting were just everyday residents doing their shopping, including Ruth Whitfield, an 86-year-old grandmother, who is also the mother of former Buffalo fire commissioner Garnell Whitfield, was killed while shopping for groceries.

She had just visited her husband in a nursing home and decided to stop at the Tops on her way home to get something to eat, WGRZ reported.

Geraldine Talley, 62, had also stopped by the grocery store to pick up food for dinner, People reports and had asked her fiancée to go to another aisle to retrieve something off one of the shelves when the gunfire started.

The two were soon separated, and Talley died in the gunfire.

She is a mother of two children – Genicia Talley, 42, and Mark Talley, 32, and was also like a second mother to her niece, Kesha Chapman.

Talley is now remembered for her mouth-watering cheesecake, People reports.

‘She was truly an amazing woman, and I’m going to miss her dearly,’ Chapman-Johnson said told ABC News. 

Katherine Massey, 72, was also at the supermarket on Saturday to do her grocery shopping when she was fatally shot. Her brother was supposed to pick her up after she finished her errands.

Massey was a civil rights and education advocate. Former Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, who had known Massey for over 20 years, told The Buffalo News that she ‘did everything she could to lift up Buffalo’s black community.’

Last year, Massey wrote a letter calling for more federal regulation of firearms, citing both urban street violence and mass shootings.

Pearly Young, 77, who fed needy residents in Buffalo’s Central Park neighborhood for 25 years, was another victim who was shot and killed during the massacre, 11Alive reporter Madison Carter tweeted.

Young, originally of Alabama, moved to New York as a young adult and married a pastor.

She had gone to lunch with her sister-in-law on Saturday and was dropped off at the grocer afterwards. Her son was expected to pick her up, but when he arrived at the store, the scene was in total chaos.

Her relatives told Alabama.com Young will be remembered for her love for God and her family.

Celestine Chaney, 65, who was at the supermarket to buy strawberries for shortcake, was killed during the shooting, her son, Wayne Jones, 48, confirmed. 

She was also picking up some shrimp her husband, Raymond. 

The loving mother and grandmother-of-six was at the supermarket with her older sister, JoAnn Daniels. 

Daniels told The Buffalo Times she never saw Gendron, but heard the sounds of his assault rifle.

She and Chaney were trying to flee when the 65-year-old was shot.

‘She fell and I thought she had got up and was behind me, but she wasn’t behind me,’ Daniels recalled. 

Roberta Drury, 32, was at the store to buy groceries for dinner when she was fatally shot, her sister Amanda Drury, 34, said.

She had moved to Buffalo from the Syracuse, New York, area to be with her older brother after his bone marrow transplant, her sister, Amanda Drury, told Reuters

Drury helped him with his bar, The Dalmatia, and with his family.

‘She was vibrant and outgoing, could talk to anyone,’ Amanda said.

Andre Mackniel, 53, who also went by Andre Elliot, was in town visiting relatives.

He was at the store on Saturday to pick up a surprise birthday cake for his grandson, USA Today reports. 

But ‘he never came out with the cake,’ his cousin Clarissa Alston-McCutcheon said, describing her cousin as a ‘loving and caring guy’ who ‘loved family’ and ‘was always there for his family.

Heyward Patterson, who would often give people rides to and from the supermarket and help them carry their groceries, was also among the 10 people fatally shot, according to Patterson’s great niece Teniqua Clark.

He earned the nickname ‘Jitney’ because of his help at the grocer.

He was also a church deacon and would welcome parishioners and escort them to their seats.

‘He would give the shirt off his back,’ his wife, Tirzah Patterson, told The Buffalo News. ‘That’s who he is. He wouldn’t hurt anybody. Whatever he had, he’d give it to you.’

And Margus Morrison, 52, was a father of three who was an active bus aide for Buffalo schools since February 2019, USA Today reports.

His family later confirmed he was killed in the deadly shooting. 

Buffalo Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continued their investigation of the shooting on Monday

Buffalo Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continued their investigation of the shooting on Monday

FBI agents are pictured entering the store on Monday, as gunshots could still be seen in the window

FBI agents are pictured entering the store on Monday, as gunshots could still be seen in the window

1652737834 654 Relatives of 86 year old woman killed in Buffalo shooting break down

Police say the teen admitted that he was targeting the black community when he carried out the massacre. FBI agents are pictured executing a search warrant and Gendron’s house on Sunday

 But police officials said on Monday they believe the rampage could have been much worse, admitting that Gendron planned to drive to a second location to target more black people.

‘His plans were to drive out of here and continue driving down Jefferson Avenue looking to shoot more black people and possibly go to another store location,’ Buffalo Police Chief Joseph Gramaglia told ABC News.

The teen, who claims to identify as a white supremacist, issued several ‘clear and hate-filled’ statements about his motive and state of mind following his arrest, and admitted that he was targeting the black community when he carried out the massacre, an official confirmed to CNN.

Shonnell Teague, manager of Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, also claims suspected gunman Payton Gendron visited the store on Friday while disguised as a homeless person.

‘He was acting like he was homeless and needed change,’ Teague told The New York Daily News on Sunday. ‘He really was checking out the store.’

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia confirmed the allegations, noting Gendron, 18, who lives nearly 200 miles away from Buffalo made multiple stops in the area the day before the massacre.

Shonnell Teague (pictured), manager of Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, claims suspected gunman Payton Gendron visited the store on Friday while disguised as a homeless person. She claims he 'acted like he needed change' but was really surveying the store

Shonnell Teague (pictured), manager of Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, claims suspected gunman Payton Gendron visited the store on Friday while disguised as a homeless person. She claims he ‘acted like he needed change’ but was really surveying the store

‘He was in the Buffalo area, he was right in this area the day before,’ Gramaglia said at a news conference Sunday. ‘We have identified some of the locations that he was at. We know he did some reconnaissance on the area and the store.’

Investigators, while executing a search warrant at his home on Sunday, also found evidence that the teen had been ‘studying’ previous hate crimes and shootings before he carried out his own attack.

‘The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime,’ Gramaglia said. ‘This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind.’ 

It was also revealed Sunday that Gendron was not on law enforcement’s radar – despite having underwent a mental health evaluation last summer after he threatened to open fire at his high school.

Police were called to Gendron’s high school in Conklin, New York, located near the Pennsylvania border, on June 8, 2021 after he made a threatening statement, authorities revealed during a press conference Sunday. 

‘The state police responded. They investigated. They interviewed the subject. And they felt at the time it was appropriate to have that individual brought in for a mental health evaluation,’ Gramaglia explained.

Gramaglia said the threat was not racist and not directed at a specific person or place. 

However, an unnamed law enforcement source told The Associated Press Gendron, then-17, had threatened to shoot up Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna High School around graduation. 

Gendron was released after spending a day-and-a-half in the hospital. Gramaglia said that after his discharge, Gendron had no further contact with law enforcement.

‘Nobody called in,’ the police commissioner said. ‘Nobody called any complaints.’

THE VICTIMS OF THE ‘RACIALLY-MOTIVATED’ BUFFALO SUPERMARKET SHOOTING 

Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York on Saturday.

Retired Buffalo Police Department cop Aaron Salter was killed after trying to shoot back at the alleged shooter

Retired Buffalo Police Department cop Aaron Salter was killed after trying to shoot back at the alleged shooter

Aaron Salter Jr., 75

Salter is a retired Buffalo police officer who worked as a security guard at the supermarket. 

He was fatally shot after confronting accused shooter Payton Gendron inside the store.

Salter’s shots failed to penetrate Gendron’s armored vest, officials confirmed to CBS News

After he shot at Gendron, the teen returned fire, killing Salter.  

Ruth Whitfield, 86, the mother of former Buffalo fire commissioner Garnell Whitfield, was also killed in the attack

Ruth Whitfield, 86, the mother of former Buffalo fire commissioner Garnell Whitfield, was also killed in the attack

Ruth Whitfield, 86

Whitfield had just visited her husband in a nursing home and decided to stop at the Tops on her way home to get something to eat, WGRZ reported.

She was also the mother of Former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, according to the television station. 

Following the shooting, he said during an interview with the Buffalo News: ‘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,’ he said. 

Katherine Massey, 72, had gone to the supermarket to do her grocery shopping when she was fatally shot

Katherine Massey, 72, had gone to the supermarket to do her grocery shopping when she was fatally shot

Katherine Massey, 72

She had gone to the supermarket to do her grocery shopping when she was fatally shot. 

Her brother was supposed to pick her up after she finished her errands, but arrived to the grisly aftermath of a mass shooting.

Massey was a civil rights and education advocate.

Former Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, who had known Massey for over 20 years, told The Buffalo News that she ‘did everything she could to lift up Buffalo’s black community.’

Last year, Massey wrote a letter calling for more federal regulation of firearms, citing both urban street violence and mass shootings.

Pearly Young, 77, who fed needy residents in Buffalo's Central Park neighborhood for 25 years, was also killed

Pearly Young, 77, who fed needy residents in Buffalo’s Central Park neighborhood for 25 years, was also killed

Pearly Young, 77

Young fed needy residents in Buffalo’s Central Park neighborhood for 25 years.

Young, originally from Alabama, moved to New York as a young adult and married a pastor.

She had gone to lunch with her sister-in-law on Saturday and was dropped off at the grocer afterwards. Her son was expected to pick her up, but when he arrived at the store, all was in chaos.

Her relatives told Alabama.com Young will be remembered for her love for God and her family.

Celestine Chaney, 65, who was at the supermarket to buy strawberries for shortcake at the time of the shooting

Celestine Chaney, 65, who was at the supermarket to buy strawberries for shortcake at the time of the shooting

Celestine Chaney, 65

Chaney was a breast cancer survivor, was at the supermarket with her older sister, JoAnn Daniels, because she wanted to buy strawberries for shortcake.

The loving mother and grandmother-of-six was also picking up some shrimp for her husband, Raymond.

Daniels told The Buffalo Times she never saw Gendron, but heard the sounds of his assault rifle.

She and Chaney were trying to flee when the 65-year-old was shot.

‘She fell and I thought she had got up and was behind me, but she wasn’t behind me,’ Daniels recalled. 

Roberta Drury, 32, was at the store to buy groceries for dinner. She had moved to the area to close to her older brother

Roberta Drury, 32, was at the store to buy groceries for dinner. She had moved to the area to close to her older brother

Roberta Drury, 32

Drury was at the store to buy groceries for dinner when the shooting began.

She had moved to Buffalo from the Syracuse, New York, area to be with her older brother after his bone marrow transplant, her sister, Amanda Drury, told Reuters

Drury helped him with his bar, The Dalmatia, and with his family.

‘She was vibrant and outgoing, could talk to anyone,’ Amanda said. 

Heyward Patterson, 68, often give people rides to and from the supermarket and would help them carry their groceries

Heyward Patterson, 68, often give people rides to and from the supermarket and would help them carry their groceries

Heyward Patterson, 68

He often give people rides to and from the supermarket and would help them carry their groceries. This role earned him the nickname ‘Jitney.’

He was also a church deacon and would welcome parishioners and escort them to their seats.

‘He would give the shirt off his back,’ his wife, Tirzah Patterson, told The Buffalo News. ‘That’s who he is. He wouldn’t hurt anybody. Whatever he had, he’d give it to you.’

Geraldine Talley, right, entered the store on Saturday with her fiancée to pick up a few items for dinner

Geraldine Talley, right, entered the store on Saturday with her fiancée to pick up a few items for dinner

Geraldine Talley, 62

Talley is a mother of two children – Genicia Talley, 42, and Mark Talley, 32, and was also like a second mother to her niece, Kesha Chapman.

She had entered the store on Saturday to just pick up a few items, her sister, Kaye Chapman-Johnson told ABC News.

She had told her fiancée to go to another aisle to retrieve something off one of the shelves when the gunfire started.

Talley is now remembered for her mouth-watering cheesecake, People reports.

‘She was truly an amazing woman, and I’m going to miss her dearly,’ Chapman-Johnson said of her sister. 

Andre Mackniel, 53, was in town visiting relatives and went to the store to pick up a surprise birthday cake for his grandson

Andre Mackniel, 53, was in town visiting relatives and went to the store to pick up a surprise birthday cake for his grandson

Andre Mackniel, 53 

Andre Mackniel, who also went by Andre Elliot, was in town visiting relatives.

He was at the store on Saturday to pick up a surprise birthday cake for his grandson, USA Today reports. 

But ‘he never came out with the cake,’ his cousin Clarissa Alston-McCutcheon said, describing her cousin as a ‘loving and caring guy’ who ‘loved family’ and ‘was always there for his family.’

He was listed as ‘engaged’ on his Facebook page.

Mackniel, of Auburn, New York, was self-employed, but used to work at Buffalo Wild Wings, according to Finger Lakes Daily News.

Margus Morrison was a father-of-three and an active bus aide for Buffalo schools since February 2019

Margus Morrison was a father-of-three and an active bus aide for Buffalo schools since February 2019

Margus Morrison, 52 

Margus Morrison was a father of three who was an active bus aide for Buffalo schools since February 2019, USA Today reports.

His family later confirmed he was killed in the deadly shooting.  

 

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