BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Garnell Whitfield, the former Buffalo Fire Commissioner whose mother died in the Tops mass shooting, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning.

That attack, which killed 10 Black people has been charged by Erie County prosecutors as a hate crime. Hate is exactly what Garnell Whitfield spoke with senators about.

“We want to make sure they address white supremacy,” Whitfield said before making the trip to Washington.

He says he’s still in shock. It’s now been more than three weeks since Ruth Whitfield, 86, was killed while shopping on Jefferson Avenue.

“I can’t imagine a time when I would ever forget my mother,” Garnell said. “What happened to her, the things about her that we miss. Every time I look at my family, my father, I see my mother.”

Whitfield testified in front of the same Senate committee which in March of 2021, heard FBI Director Christopher Wray say that racially motivated violence was a concern for federal law enforcement.

“The top threat we face from (domestic violent extremists) continues to be those we identify as Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race,” Wray said in a statement to that committee.

“That’s been talked about for a long time,” Whitfield said of white supremacy. “And yet nothing has been done about it. There seems like a conscious effort not to talk about it.”

He’s hoping that changes. Whitfield admits he can’t control what Congress does. But he believes it’s his job to speak “truth to power”.

“I don’t know about the result. But it’s worth doing. My mom’s life was worthwhile,” he said.

Joining Whitfield in testifying Tuesday were:

  • Michael German, a former FBI agent who is a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program
  • Dr. Robert Pape, Director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats
  • Justin Herdman, Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio
  • Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law and George Washington University

The hearing began at 10 a.m.

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Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter and anchor who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.