Several of the victims killed at the Tops Friendly Market were community members or had personal connections with those who actively serviced the local community, including a local food pantry chef and the mother of the city’s former fire commissioner.
All but one victim was over the age of 50 and eleven of the victims were black, while two were white, police said.
Aaron Salter, 55, a retired police officer, was among the first people killed as he served as a security officer for the grocery store.
After accused gunman Payton Gendron, 18, fired several shots in the parking lot of the Tops Friendly Market, Salter responded and fired several rounds toward the gunman, police said.
Some of these bullets struck Gendron in his bulletproof vest before he returned fire, ultimately hitting and killing Salter, police said.
During a press conference on Sunday, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia called Salter “a true hero.”
“There could have been more victims if not for his actions,” Gramaglia added.
Pamela Pritchett, 55, told the New York Post that her mother, Pearl Young, 77, was among those who were killed, after she left to go grocery shopping and never returned.
“You don’t expect this when your mother goes grocery shopping,” said Pritchett, according to the outlet.
Young was a local food pantry chef and worked as a substitute teacher for children around the suspect’s age, Pritchett also told the outlet.
Ruth Whitfield, 86, was also among the victims after she stopped by the grocery store on the way home from visiting her husband at a nursing home, her son, Garnell Whitfield, a former Buffalo Fire Commissioner, told the outlet.
“Yesterday she was leaving the nursing home, stopped at the store around the corner when this happened,” Garnell told the New York Post.
The former fire commissioner said his mother has spent the last eight years caring for her husband in the nursing home.
“Every day [she was] taking care of my dad,” Garnell said, per the outlet. “She dedicated her entire life to her family but specifically the last eight years to him.”
“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,” Garnell added.
Andre Mackneil, 53, was in town visiting relatives when she went to the Tops grocery store to pick up a cake for his grandson’s birthday, police said.
The cake was supposed to be a surprise for the boy, but Mackneil never made it to the home.
“He never came out with the cake,” cousin Clarissa Alston-McCutcheon told officials.
Mackneil was “just a loving and caring guy. Loved family. Was always there for his family,” she added.
Heyward Patterson, 67, a deacon of a local church was also among the victims, after he was serving at the church’s food kitchen and stopped by the grocery store for additional supplies.
“From what I understand, he was assisting somebody putting their groceries in their car when he was shot and killed,” said Pastor Russell Bell, who also told officials that Patterson regularly gave his time to serve people “out of love.”
“Our hearts are broken,” Bell added. “Deacon Patterson was a man who loved people. He loved the community just as much as he loved the church.”
Roberta Drury, 32, was the youngest victim that was killed during Saturday’s attack.
Dezzelynn McDuffie, Drury’s mother, told officials her daughter left to get groceries Saturday and never returned. She initially found out about her daughter’s death while watching news coverage and videos of the shooting circulating online.
In one video, McDuffie said she saw the alleged suspect fatally shoot her daughter outside the store.
Geraldine Talley, 62, entered the Tops Family Market with her fiancée on Saturday, and only separated for a brief moment before the shooting spree began. The two did not reunite before she was fatally shot, officials said.
Kaye Chapman-Johnson, Talley’s sister, who was not at the store at the time of the shooting, told ABC News she was “devastated” by the loss of “an amazing sister, mother, [and] aunt.”
“I am so angry, just devastated. This is so hard for our family right now,” she told the outlet during an interview. “Our sister, we had so many plans together, so many plans, and everything has just been stripped away from us.
“Our lives will definitely never be the same again,” she added. “She just was truly an amazing woman. And I’m going to miss her dearly.”
Talley’s fiancée survived the shooting.
Katherine Massey, 72, a local activist and a retired worker from Blue Cross Blue Shield, was also killed in the attack, her sister told officials.
Massey was a secretary of her neighbor association and “a beautiful soul,” her sister told the New York Post.
Kay Savyy wrote on Facebook that her grandmother, Celestine Chaney, 65, was fatally shot Saturday.
“I am so heartbroken… my grandma was murdered basically for the color of her skin in 2022,” the post read.
Margus Morrison, 52, was also killed in the attack, the mother of his children told WKBK. He is survived by his three children.
Zaire Goodman, 20, of Buffalo, Jennifer Warrington, 50, of Tonawanda, and Christopher Braden, 55, of Lackawanna, were all injured in the shooting incident but suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
The attack is believed to be racially motivated as both the area and the victims were predominantly black, officials said.
Gendron was charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty. He was ordered held without bail and is due back in court on Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.