BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Sunday marks one year since the racist mass shooting at the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue.
Today, News 4 is remembering the 10 people, all Black, who lost their lives in the massacre. They were mothers, fathers and grandparents, a church deacon, a community activist, a retired Buffalo police officer working security at the store, and more.
Here is how the 10 victims are being remembered, one year later.
Roberta Drury, 32
Drury was the youngest person to lose their life in the shooting.
She is remembered for “that smile that could light up a room.” She grew up in the Syracuse area and had moved to Buffalo a decade ago to tend to her brother in his fight against leukemia.
“When people ask, how many children do you have? I don’t know what to say. Will I ever be able to enjoy August 11, her birthday, May 14… how will my family ever have a nice thought of a beautiful spring day?” said her mother Leslie Vangiesen at Gendron’s sentencing.
“I think of her alone, laying on the pavement for hours. I’ve never been able to see or touch her after that day. My life has been profoundly changed. My life view is just saddened. Robbie’s family, my family has been permanently damaged and there is no punishment that will ever reverse our loss.”
Margus Morrison, 52
Morrison was at Tops buying dinner for a movie night planned with his family that evening.
He is remembered as a man who was devoted to his family, a father of seven. He is also being remembered for his laughter, sense of humor and love of sunglasses. He was a longtime bus aide for Buffalo Public Schools. He had also worked as a security guard.
“The kids gravitated to him, they loved him, Mr. Morrison, Mr. M was his name, always coming home telling us stories about the kids on the bus or who did what,” said his stepdaughter Cassandra Demps last year.
Andre Mackniel, 53
Mackniel, who lived in Auburn, N.Y., near Syracuse, was at Tops to pick up a birthday cake for his son, who was turning three years old. He grew up in Buffalo and attended South Park High School.
“Every day he’s calling for his father,” Mackniel’s brother Dion Elliott said at the sentencing. “It’s sad because that’s all he wants to know and I don’t have an answer.”
Mackniel had five children and three grandchildren. He is remembered for his love of music, both listening to it and playing the guitar. He also enjoyed writing poetry.
He was also remembered for being a star athlete at South Park.
“First thing they would say to me is, ‘Your cousin is the ball player, number one star player.’ They all loved him,” said Joselyn Feeney, a cousin of Mackniel’s.
Aaron Salter Jr., 55
Salter was a retired Buffalo Police officer who was working as a security guard at Tops at the time of his death. He heroically shot Gendron’s body armor multiple times in an effort to stop him before Salter lost his life.
He served in the Buffalo Police Department for 32 years. After his death, he was posthumously promoted to lieutenant and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the department’s highest honor.
Outside of work, Salter played drums and bass guitar at church and loved bubble gum and ketchup. He was also known as a handyman and inventor.
His widow, Kimberly, quoted Bible passages at the sentencing and emphasized the scripture “you will reap what you sow.”
On Saturday, a 5k and half marathon was held in Buffalo in his honor. There has also been a scholarship fund established in his name.
Geraldine Talley, 62
Talley is remembered as somebody who was open, honest, brave and had a “heart of gold.” She helped her brother-in-law, Brian, after an aneurysm that left him partially blind and an amputee after losing his right leg.
Geraldine Talley also loved cooking and Brian said after the massacre said that it was a goal of his to create a cookbook with all of her favorite recipes in it, along with family recipes from the other nine families to fill it out.
Her son, Mark, has since founded a non-profit organization called Agents for Advocacy, which hosts donation drives and other events to help those in need, particularly on Buffalo’s East Side. The organization held a holiday gathering in December. Last week, Mark Talley announced a book release about the tragedy.
Celestine Chaney, 65
Chaney is remembered as a loving mother to her only son, Wayne, a grandmother to nine and a great-grandmother to nine more.
She was a fighter, having survived breast cancer and three brain aneurysms. She celebrated her 65th birthday the week before her death and was taken out to dinner by one of her granddaughters.
Her son spoke at the funeral about how his mother taught him how to survive with nothing.
He also spoke emotionally at Gendron’s sentencing.
“You took from us a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend… because of your senseless act, we will never have another birthday, or get together, another celebration,” he said. “While I was writing this, tears fell from my eyes, thinking about what a beautiful person you took.”
“Mistakes, some are big and some are small. This one here is a real big one that you can’t take back. You have to live with this one, bro, just as I have to live with this every day,” he added. “I’m a parent and I feel sorry for your parents. You will never get to hug them again, like I won’t.”
Heyward Patterson, 67
Patterson served as a Deacon, leading services at Tabernacle Church of God for more than a decade.
He was well-known for being a transportation link to the store, regularly driving people without transportation to Tops on Jefferson so they could pick up fresh groceries.
He is also remembered as a loving father of three, his youngest being 12 years old at the time of his death.
“Deacon Patterson was a little bit of everything in this community,” said Leonard Lane last May, who knew him for more than a decade.
Katherine Massey, 72
Massey was a gun control activist who wrote to The Buffalo News in 2021, addressing “escalating gun violence in Buffalo and many major U.S. cities” and called for “extensive” federal action and legislation.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at her funeral that she was “proficient in her history and her culture” and she had a piece of African kente cloth draped across her casket, which was one of her favorites.
Her employer, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, made a $400,000 donation to the 5/14 fund and set up a $20,000 scholarship in Massey’s name.
Massey’s sister Barbara made an emotional impact statement at the sentencing, telling Gendron “I want to personally choke you and leave my fingers on your neck.”
Pearl Young, 77
Young’s loved ones called her a genuinely kind woman who loved to talk to anyone and everyone.
She was a devoted member of Good Samaritan Church of God and Christ in Buffalo, where she taught Sunday school for 40 years. She even knew what each child liked to eat for breakfast and would bring them that to eat.
She also worked as a substitute teacher at Emerson School of Hospitality.
Last month, a food and soup giveaway was held in her memory. Her family is hoping to turn the plot of land on Leroy Street where it was held into a food pantry in her name.
Ruth Whitfield, 86
Whitfield is remembered as a woman who was devoted to her loved ones. She had four children, including former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr., and nine grandchildren.
She stopped at Tops to pick up groceries after visiting her husband, Garnell Sr., in a nursing home.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at Whitfield’s funeral as well as Reverend Al Sharpton. Since the massacre, Garnell Jr. has become an activist and testified in Washington D.C. in the months following the shooting, pleading with lawmakers for common sense gun laws.
“Even with all of the heartbreak you caused, you have failed to break our family’s spirit. You thought you broke us, but you awoke us,” Whitfield’s granddaughter Simone Crawley said during a victim impact statement at the February sentencing of the perpetrator, Payton Gendron. “We all know the pure hatred and motivations behind your heinous crime and we are here to tell you that you have failed.”
Three people were injured in the shooting and survived: 20-year-old Zaire Goodman, 50-year-old Jennifer Warrington and 55-year-old Christopher Braden.
Braden, who was shot in the leg, said at the sentencing that he suffers from PTSD and is haunted by the bodies of the victims that he saw.
Goodman and his mother, Zeneta Everhart, have become active in the community. They founded Zeneta and Zaire’s Book Club, hoping to fight racism and open young minds to diversity and inclusion. She also manages the Single Moms Club, which allows mothers to network and make new friends while getting respite.
Everhart, who is Diversity and Inclusion Director for State Sen. Tim Kennedy (D), is running for the Masten District seat in the Buffalo Common Council.
Tops Mass Shooting
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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.