WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — On May 14, 2022, retired Buffalo police officer, Aaron Salter, Jr., was working as a security guard at the Tops on Jefferson when he shot the gunman’s body armor several times in an effort to stop him. One year after his death, the hero is being honored for his service and sacrifice.

The honor comes from the SUNY Erie Community College Law Enforcement Training Academy, which is where Salter graduated from. The ceremony was held Wednesday afternoon at Heroes Memorial Park, located outside the academy on ECC’s North Campus in Williamsville.

“To find out that he was a part of ECC in a real way, it was no surprise because Aaron demonstrates on a day-to-day basis what it means to be heroic,” said Melodie Baker, Vice Chair of ECC’s Board of Trustees. “I’ve known Aaron Salter for the majority of my life… He was an uncle to the community, he was an uncle to me, he was a hero to many. He demonstrated what it meant to be a true leader.”

The academy unveiled a plaque that will be placed on its “Wall of Remembrance,” recognizing Salter’s courageous efforts on May 14.

The plaque reads as follows:

Police Officer Aaron W. Salter, Jr.
Buffalo Police Department – Length of Service: 30 Years
Retired Officer Salter was the lone security guard inside the Jefferson Avenue Tops Friendly Market. After a barrage of gunfire from an assailant armed with an assault rifle, Officer Salter returned fire multiple times. The shooter, protected by body armor, returned fire, fatally injuring Officer Salter. The actions by Officer Salter slowed the mass shooter enough so that numerous patrons were able to escape the carnage perpetrated by the white supremist who took 9 other lives that fateful afternoon of May 14, 2022.

The tribute is part of the academy’s commitment to honoring alumni, like Salter, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the line of duty.

“With our current recruit class present, the 142nd Basic Class for Police Officers, we thought that they should show reverence and respect that is displayed by any courageous act by a current or former police officer,” said Academy Director Joe Strano.

Salter’s family was among those there for the tribute. His wife, Kimberly, expressed her gratitude for the honor.

“I am blessed by the honor that you’re giving Aaron and for my family, for my daughter, my son and my sister-in-law. We are very grateful,” Kimberly said. “My biggest fear happened on May 14 and I’m still trying to get over that, but I rejoice because Aaron did his job. Aaron didn’t back down from that person because Aaron said, ‘They don’t teach us to retreat in the academy, they taught us to engage,’ and that’s what Aaron did. Aaron loved his community, but that’s who Aaron was because he was like that with everybody, whether you knew him intimately or if you worked with him, or if you were just in his presence.”

Kimberly also offered some advice to the new recruits there for Salter’s tribute.

“Take your job seriously. Love your family immensely. If you’re married, treasure your wife or your significant other. Your kids, love them every single second of the day. That’s what my husband did,” Kimberly said. “Do your best. You have a big job, you have been given a serious calling. These are God’s people out here. Protect and serve to the best of your ability and you will be blessed.”

During the ceremony, Erie County County Executive Mark Poloncarz also declared May 17 “Lt. Aaron Salter Day” so that day, from now on, will always be remembered as his day in Erie County.

“There’s no doubt that Aaron’s actions on that fateful day saved the lives of others,” Poloncarz said. “There’s nothing more that can be said other than we, as a grateful community, are thankful for that.”

Salter served the Buffalo Police Department for 30 years before retiring in 2018. He was posthumously promoted to lieutenant and awarded the Medal of Honor — the department’s highest honor.

“He was a hero long before that day,” said Trini Ross, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York. “He was retired but he did not stay at home to enjoy that retirement. He gave back to the community. He didn’t sit down, he didn’t just enjoy life. He continued to give to the community. He was selfless. He’s missed by his family, he is missed by his friends, he is missed by this community where he will never be forgotten.”

Jordan Norkus is an award-winning anchor who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.