‘Hero’ guard, church deacon among Buffalo shooting victims

Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo, NY, police officer, quickly sprung into action to protect his community when a gunman attacked the store where he worked. He was shot and killed.

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Aaron Salter was a beloved community member and security guard who knew the shoppers of Tops Friendly Market by name. When they came under attack from a gunman with a rifle, he quickly sprung into action to protect his community.

The retired Buffalo police officer fired multiple times at the attacker, striking his armor-plated vest at least once. The bullet didn’t pierce, and Salter was shot and killed.

“He’s a true hero,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday. “There could have been more victims if not for his actions.”

Worshippers impacted by the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket pray at True Bethel Baptist Church on Sunday, May 15, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Salter was one of 10 killed in an attack whose victims represented a cross-section of life in the predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. They included a church deacon, a man at the store buying a birthday cake for his grandson and an 86-year-old who had just visited her husband at a nursing home.

They were gunned down by a white man who authorities say showed up at the store with the “express purpose” of killing Black people. Three others were wounded.

Salter “cared about the community. He looked after the store,” local resident Yvette Mack said. She remembered him as someone who “let us know if we was right or wrong.”

Mack would walk to the store to play lottery numbers and shop and said she spoke to Salter shortly before the shooting.

“I was playing my numbers. He said ‘I see your playing your numbers!’ I laughed. And he was playing his numbers too. Can you imagine seeing someone and you don’t know he’s not going to go home?”

The people Salter tried to protect include Ruth Whitfield, the 86-year-old mother of retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield. She had just returned from visiting her husband at a nursing home, as she did every day, when she stopped in at Tops to buy a few groceries and was killed, Whitfield told The Buffalo News.

Ruth Whitfield was “a mother to the motherless” and “a blessing to all of us,” her son said. He attributed her strength and commitment to family to her strong religious faith.

“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,” Whitfield said.

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Stephanie Morris is overcome with emotions outside of a scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

A chaplain with the Buffalo Police Department walks in the parking lot after a shooting at a supermarket, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

People pay their respects outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Bystanders gather under an umbrella as rain rolls in after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Police walk by a small memorial as they investigate after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown takes a moment of silence and prayer following a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

People hug outside the scene after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Children walk hand in hand out near the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

A bystander watches as police investigate after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Police speak to bystanders while investigating after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Officials said the gunman entered the supermarket with a rifle and opened fire. Investigators say the man livestreamed the shooting.

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

A crowd gathers as police investigate after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. Multiple people were shot at the Tops Friendly Market.

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Police vehicles block off the street where at least 10 people were killed in a shooting at a supermarket, Saturday, May 14, 2022 in Buffalo, N.Y. Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Police investigate after a shooting at a supermarket, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Eerie County District Attorney John Flynn speaks at a press conference after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia speaks at a press conference after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Payton Gendron appears during his arraignment in Buffalo City Court, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. Gendron was arraigned on first-degree murder charges and ordered detained without bail. (Mark Mulville/The Buffalo News via AP)

Buffalo grieves as officials investigate

Stephanie Morris is overcome with emotions outside of a scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Also killed was shopper Katherine Massey, whose sister, Barbara Massey, called her “a beautiful soul.”

Zaire Goodman, 20, was shot in the neck but was recovering, State Sen. Tim Kennedy told a church service on Sunday. Goodman is the son of a staffer for Kennedy.

“I’m devastated. I’m angry,” Kennedy said. “And I’m thinking about the families who won’t welcome a loved one home tonight.”

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