this is "nightline." >> tonight, as the country mourns the violence in buffalo -- >> it's a lot of people dead in will. >> -- we're on the scene as a community tries to make sense of it all. >> no matter what happens to us, we might be shaken, we might be thrown down, we might be cast down, but we will never be destroyed. >> the shooter striking at the heart of a vibrant black neighborhood. >> we don't got the ymcas no more. so tops is for us it's like our community center. he with meet there every day. we in tops every single day. that's where we live at, there. every single day we're there. >> what we're learning about the victims, just trying to go about their daily lives. >> my mother is the glue that held us together.
thanks so much for joining us. i'm linsey davis. tonight we're in buffalo, where a community is standing strong. two days after that horrific attack that claimed ten lives, all of them black. president biden is coming here tomorrow. the impact of the shooting resonating throughout the country. but here the attack is all too real. here's abc's stephanie ramtos. >> reporter: this chilling new video -- >> there's a lot of people dead in there. >> reporter: -- showing the chaotic scene moments after a gunman killed ten people and injured three others at this tops supermarket on saturday. [ wailing ] authorities stay this was a racially motivated mass shooting. >> this is an absolute racist hate crime. this is someone who has hate in their heart, soul, and mind. >> how many more shootings will the african american community have to endure before we take domestic terrorism serious?
>> reporter: the deceased, all of them black, range in age from 32-year-old roberta drury to 86-year-old ruth whitfield, who was killed after visiting her husband at a nursing home nearby. the unimaginable grief visible at a press conference today with family attorney ben crump. >> this was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by a young white supremist. >> reporter: mrs. whitfield's son, garrnell whitfield, was buffalo's former fire commissioner. >> we're devastated. we're devastated. we're a very close family. we're a very, very close family. and my mother was the glue that held us all together. >> reporter: his parents were married for 68 years. >> i will remember my mom as a -- as a -- the strongest person i've ever known. my mom loved us unconditionally.
she supported us unconditionally. >> reporter: the gunman's attack that killed ruth whitfield and nine others began at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon on saturday. >> active shooter at the tops. still shots being fired. >> reporter: the shooter opening fire as soon as he got out of his car, striking four people in the parking lot, killing three, and then storming the store. >> contact homicide. we have bodies out here. >> he shot a woman. he shot a deacon. he shot another woman. and then he went in the store and started shooting again. >> reporter: inside the store fragrance and her 20-year-old daughter were working the same shift. >> we heard gunshots. everyone in the front end stopped moving. we all looked toward the front door. >> reporter: fragrance running away from the gunman. her daughter crouched down behind a register, trapped there. >> i turned around. she wasn't there. and i said, where's my baby? i didn't see my baby. where is she?
i didn't know where she was. >> reporter: fragrance didn't know if her daughter survived until the shooting stopped. >> she was there for all the rest of the shooting. the whole time she was in there. >> i cried a lot. she would not let me go at all. i'm like, mom, i need to breathe. she did not care. as long as i was breathing next to her. >> reporter: officials say the gunman had an assault-style rifle and was wearing body armor and a tactical helmet. retired police officer aaron salter jr., who was working as a security guard at the store, fired multiple shots, hitting the suspect, but the gunman's body armor protected him, allowing the assailant to return fire, fatally shooting the guard moments later. >> he cared about the community. he looked after the store. he did a good job. you know, he was very nice and respectable. >> i can't say enough about our retired fellow colleague, aaron salter, who confronted this
individual to save the lives of others. >> reporter: salter's battle with the gunman allowing others to escape. >> i'm going to remember him as a person that i thought he was going to change the world. and now he'll be just remembered as a person that saved lives. and i know people in this city will never forget what he did. >> reporter: officers arriving on scene just one minute after the first 911 call, but in that time the shooter fired about 50 shots. police say he had several more guns and high-capacity magazines in his car and he planned to continue his spree before he was taken into custody. >> it appeared that his plans were to drive out of here and then continue driving down jefferson avenue, looking to shoot more black people as he put it. >> hate crimes don't just affect an individual. they terrorize an entire community. and the trauma that they induce,
with loved ones literally are murdered in the places where they shop, it leaves a lasting impact on the community. >> reporter: the alleged gunman, seen here in court sunday, was identified as 18-year-old payton gendron. >> i understand the charges. >> reporter: he's charged with one initial count of first-degree murder and being held without bail. his public defender pleading not guilty for him. he bought the gun used in the shooting legally. >> he was free to walk into a gun shop and purchase the bushmaster xm-15 assault-style rifle that police said was used here in the shooting. this was no ordinary rifle, though. payton gendron allegedly tricked it out with writings, the names of other mass shooters that he admired, that he took as inspiration. >> reporter: abc news also obtaining a new 589-page document appearing to show how the 18-year-old suspect carefully planned the attack at least two months before.
according to the document, gendron visited the supermarket back on march 8th, where he was questioned by a security guard at the store. the document also included sketches of the supermarket, outlined different aisles, and how he would navigate around quickly. police say gendron drove 200 miles from his home in conklin, new york to the store again on friday, one day before the shooting, to conduct reconnaissance. >> when i saw him walking around the tops -- >> reporter: a customer says he spoke to the suspect that friday. talking about critical race theory. >> that day he asked me, are you going to be here tomorrow? i said yeah. because he came back here to the same spot where i bought him something to drink and shot people that look like me. and would have shot me if i was standing there. >> reporter: the alleged shooter also had i ahistory of violent threats at school. despite this seemingly normal photo of the suspect riding in his high school's graduation parade, authorities say that in the days before gendron was assigned to write a paper about his plans.
he referenced committing murder-suicide. the school called the state police. >> the individual was brought in for a mental health evaluation. he was evaluated and then he was released. >> reporter: there was an investigation but no charges were ever filed. >> once he was released, there's really nothing more our system allows the authorities to do. there's really no mechanism to follow up and track someone like payton gendron. >> reporter: former classmates nathan twitchel and cassandra williams describing gendron as quiet and shy. >> he was just this quiet, smart kid that i wouldn't think would be able to do anything like what he did yesterday. >> reporter: but one thing about him did stick out. >> once covid hit he wasn't ever really at school. other than once right when he came back, he showed up in like a hazmat-type suit. >> full hazmat suit. >> what was your reaction to that? >> i mean, everyone was just staring at him. >> reporter: investigators believe the suspect may have consumed white supremacist ideology online, even posting a
180-page document laying out his plan for the rampage. that document fixated on replacement theory, a white supremacist conspiracy theory that non-whites will replace white people. >> it's very clear that he was influenced and radicalized by what he found online. there's no question that white supremacy is now long regarded by law enforcement authorities as the single most deadly terror threat to the homeland. >> reporter: tonight a community mourning a devastating loss while leaders fear an increasing existential threat to america. >> the threat of white supremacy is not only the threat to the black community. it's a threat to our democracy. it's not about any one community. it's about all of america, all of society. it's about our democracy. >> our thanks to stephanie. when we return, the attack hit a community at its heart, and now those who live here are coming together.
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with a 2-year price guarantee. call today. here in buffalo, which is also known as the city of good neighbors, the tops supermarket right behind me was much more than just a place to shop. it was the center of the neighborhood. abc's ashan singh takes us iside the community that is wounded but determined to recover. >> i just happened to pick up at
work. i get emotional. it could have been me. >> it was a planned attack. it took away a food source. now there's nowhere people can eat right now. >> reporter: on the east side of buffalo community is everything. and the tops friendly market on jefferson serves as a vital hub, providing residents access to fresh food, medicine, and a place to gather with friends. >> we don't got the ymcas no more and the community center. so tops is for us, it's like our community center. we meet there every day. we in tops every single day. that's where we live at, there. >> reporter: but saturday all that changed when an armed outsider opened fire. >> he sat there over 200 miles away and planned, and he came here the day before and did it. and he shot old ladies. he shot older women. what was wrong with him? >> reporter: just how important is that tops supermarket for this community? >> not even just the community. the east side. if you look at where the grocery stores are, there's not many in the east side of buffalo. >> reporter: in this
historically black neighborhood even grocery shopping has been a challenge. >> years ago some of us worked very hard to bring this supermarket to buffalo's east side. this was a food desert previously. >> reporter: almost 20 years ago the residents of buffalo's east side lacked access to healthy affordable food within walking distance. the nearest grocery store, over three miles away. >> we fought for a long time to get this supermarket. >> reporter: community leaders lobbied for a supermarket and won. [ applause ] in 2003 tops friendly markets opened with much fanfare. with local residents celebrating, as seen in this video from the buffalo history channel. >> i was around when tops on jefferson was a conversation, you know, and this neighborhood relied on that grocery store for much more than just food. >> it was a real big thing about
us even getting a tops in the inner city neighborhood. i don't know why, but you know, something that we really needed. we finally got it. and now it's gone again. >> this is where one of the oldest black newspapers in the country -- >> reporter: council member ulysses wingo says systemic racism isn't unique to buffalo and is a major factor in this tragedy. >> this country was founded on principles that suggested black folks were lesser than other folks. we have these nationalists and these white supremacists who think that they're entitled to this country when the fact of the matter is this country was built on the backs of my ancestors. >> reporter: how important is the supermarket for the local neighborhood? >> it has completely disrupted the lives of our residents. it has completely interrupted the flow of how people fellowship. and how we come together. >> reporter: tops committing to staying in the community, offering to transport residents
to a neighboring tops store, saying in part, "we have taken immediate steps to ensure our neighbors are able to meet their grocery and pharmacy needs by providing free bus shuttle service." new york governor kathy hochul announcing a partnership with uber and lyft to provide residents free rides. >> they have offered to take people from these zip codes, if they need to go to a grocery store in another area, because a lot of people in this neighborhood they walk to the grocery store, they don't have transportation. >> reporter: in the aftermath of this tragedy residents rallying together. >> did y'all eat yet? >> reporter: to keep their neighbors fed. 53-year-old dana overton-burns is a local who knows the importance of the tops supermarket to the east side. she says being out here in the rain is simply the buffalo way. >> this is my city. this is my community. these are my people. i don't care if you're black, white, or purple. this is my city. it's important for me to help where i live and build community. you can't have community without
unity. >> reporter: having each other's backs, that's just what east siders do. >> we should be one and not just wait for tragedy to happen in order to come together. to make the community together. we shouldbe doing that work every single day. >> reporter: to see your community out here in response to the shooting that happened just days ago, what's that mean to you? >> it means the world to me. because we need to show each other love now. this is what we need. a lot of people lost their life. and i feel with us coming together it's not going to make things better but at least, you know, hope our community can get back on its regular track. >> reporter: nationally known as the city of good neighbors, buffalo residents are living up to that nickname. >> no matter what happens in our community we always found our way to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. no matter what happens to us, we might be shaken, we might be thrown down, we might be cast down, but we will never be
destroyed. >> in a few days it's going to be the east siders who are left picking up the pieces. how are you guys going to do with that? >> the way we've always dealt with it. together. >> our thanks to ashan. up next, remembering the lives lost. nope nope c'mon him? oo, i like him! nooooo... noooo... noooo... quick, the quicker picker upper! bounty picks up messes quicker and each sheet is 2x more absorbent , so you can use less. he's an eight he's a nine bounty, the quicker picker upper. i've got nothing to eat. nothing. hold on, i can do something. ♪ turning nothing into something ♪
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their loss is hitting their families and the entire community. retired buffalo police officer aaron salter jr. worked security at the store. he shot the alleged gunman several times, though the bullets did not pierce his body armor. witnesses say salter's actions probably saved many lives. aaron salter was 55. ruth whitfield was a great grandmother. cher son, a former buffalo fire commissioner, said the 86-year-old was the glue that held the family together. she had stopped at the grocery store after visiting her husband in his nursing home. katherine massey was 72. a long-time civil rights advocate, almost a year ago she wrote a letter to the editor of the "buffalo news" advocating for stricter gun control after a relative died from gun violence. roberta drury was just 32 and was the youngest victim. she'd moved to buffalo to be closer to her brother, who was battling leukemia. 77-year-old pearl young was a substitute teacher who was
active in her church and helped to run a weekly food pantry. heyward patterson was also active in his church, serving as a deacon. the 67-year-old father of three was helping someone load groceries into a car when he was killed. geraldine tally was engaged to be married. she was in the grocery store with her fiance. they became separated. he made it out. geraldine was 62. a breast cancer survivor and wa- grandmother to six. she was at the supermarket buying strawberries to make a shortcake. margus morrison, who was 52, was in the supermarket buying snacks for movie night with his wife. his cousin described him as always happy and full of energy. his six children are now left without a father. this memorial to 53-year-old andre mackneil, who was also a father of six, he was at the store buying a birthday cake for his 3-year-old grandson. that's "nightline." you can watch all of our full episodes on hulu.