National | NPR

The Buffalo, N.Y., community holds funerals this week for shooting victims

It's been a difficult and emotional week in Buffalo, N.Y., following last week's shootings at a local supermarket. The racist attack has jarred the community as the first funerals begin.

Listen

The funeral procession for the late Heyward Patterson prepares to depart Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church on Friday, May 20, 2022 in Buffalo, NY. The Patterson was one of 10 people who were killed in the mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market at Jefferson Avenue and Riley Street in a historically Black neighborhood of Buffalo by a young white gunman is being investigated as a hate crime.
The funeral procession for the late Heyward Patterson prepares to depart Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church on Friday, May 20, 2022 in Buffalo, NY. The Patterson was one of 10 people who were killed in the mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market at Jefferson Avenue and Riley Street in a historically Black neighborhood of Buffalo by a young white gunman is being investigated as a hate crime. Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

It's been a difficult and emotional week in Buffalo, N.Y., following last week's shootings at a local supermarket. The racist attack has jarred the community as the first funerals begin.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript :

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There will be funeral after funeral over the next few days in Buffalo for the victims of a racist shooting rampage that occurred in a grocery store a week ago today. Ten African Americans died. Three other people were injured. The 18-year-old white suspect charged with murder remains in jail and is expected to face more charges. NPR's Cheryl Corley has this report.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: The first funeral, held yesterday for 67-year-old Heyward Patterson, was private. But earlier this week, family members of four of the supermarket victims stood on the steps of a Buffalo church. It was a litany of horror and anguish. As Heyward Patterson's ex-wife Tirzah spoke, their 12-year-old son, Jake, cried and covered his face with his hands.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIRZAH PATTERSON: (Crying) His heart is broken. He half-sleeps. He half-eats. And as a mother, what am I supposed to do to help him get through this?

CORLEY: Marcus Talley held a picture of his mother, 62-year-old Geraldine Talley.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARCUS TALLEY: My mother's fiance had to watch her die with a hollow-point bullet going through her right temple.

CORLEY: Vivian White (ph) says her nephew, Andre Mackniel, was picking up a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VIVIAN WHITE: We found out he was dead on Facebook. It's not right (crying).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It is not right.

CORLEY: And Robin Harris's grief was palpable as she talked about the death of her 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBIN HARRIS: (Crying) I need this violence to stop. We need to fix this, and we need to fix it now.

CORLEY: The 18-year-old white suspect accused of the mass shooting remains in jail on a first-degree murder charge. In a parallel federal investigation, the U.S. Justice Department is looking into the shooting as a hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism. The suspect's apparent writings online say he planned the killings after he became infatuated with past mass shootings and other writings that promoted white supremacy. The New York attorney general is also investigating whether social media companies the suspect used are liable for providing a platform to plan and promote violence. The tragedy shocked Buffalo and the nation. President Biden came to town to meet with families. There have been almost daily rallies. One of the latest by the Reverend Al Sharpton.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AL SHARPTON: We need to have a real, concrete way that we're going to deal with hate crimes, whether in synagogues in Pittsburgh or whether it's in Atlanta with Asians, whether it is Latinos in El Paso. We can't keep going through these mass murders.

CORLEY: The Tops market where this shooting occurred is still fenced off. The area is a marketplace of donated goods - an effort to replace the items residents can't buy because the neighborhood's only supermarket is shuttered. There's diapers, water, cereal. At one table, a volunteer bags up some fresh fruit.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: There's bananas, oranges and pears.

CORLEY: Charles Bryant (ph) is in line for a free slice of pizza and some wings. He says all the donations and help from neighbors make him feel there's some love in the city, an effort to fight against the tragedy. There's no timeline for Tops to reopen. Bryant says there's lots of discussion about when or if it should. While some believe it should be a memorial, Bryant says he supports its return.

CHARLES BRYANT: Someone came down and did something bad, but there's no reason why we shouldn't still have a grocery store in our community.

CORLEY: Shameka Walker (ph) wrestles with that, too. She says if Tops does reopen, she's not sure she'd be able to shop there.

SHAMEKA WALKER: I don't know. I have to think about it because I'm scared. I don't want to go and bring me and my daughter - my 5-year-old daughter - and go in and somebody's shooting again. Like, I don't know who we can trust.

CORLEY: For Walker, she'd be thinking about Aaron Salter. She knew the security guard and former Buffalo police officer who confronted the shooter and was killed by the gunman.

WALKER: He was a good man and a strict man. You can't be here. You can't do this, you know? He got on us, but he was really respectful and a nice man. And I'm really going to miss him.

CORLEY: One of the 10 lives lost in this community as people sort through the emotions of what happened a week ago and figure out what to do next. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Buffalo, N.Y. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.