Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 85° Partly Cloudy

‘Hero’ guard, church deacon among Buffalo shooting victims

May 15, 2022 Updated Sun., May 15, 2022 at 11:59 a.m.

By Carolyn Thompson Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 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.”

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.

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.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.