THE suspect in Buffalo’s racially charged mass shooting might’ve continued his bloody rampage if it wasn’t for a security guard’s final act of valor.
Payton Gendron, 18, is accused of killing 10 people and injuring three more when he allegedly opened fire at a Tops Friendly Markets store in western New York.
Security guard Aaron Salter Jr, a former cop, engaged the Buffalo shooter in a gunfight, which police commissioner said likely saved lives by allowing people to escapeCredit: Family Handout
Gendron was arrested at the scene after he allegedly killed 10 people and injured three others in what law enforcement described as a racially motivated mass shootingCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk
The white teenager planned to attack another store and other locations in the predominantly black community, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said on Monday.
He said he couldn’t discuss what Gendron’s other alleged targets were but told The Sun the suspect’s plans could’ve been thrown off when the store’s security guard engaged him in a shootout.
Aaron Salter Jr, a former Buffalo police officer, fired multiple shots and hit Gendron at least once but the suspect’s heavily plated body armor prevented injury, Gramaglia said.
Salter Jr lost his life in the gunfight, but his bravery allowed countless others to escape.
“Office Salter bought us more time,” Gramaglia said. “It was seconds, but that’s a lot of time for more people to escape and gave us more time.
“He could’ve run but he stayed. He saved lives.”
Henry Johnson, one of Salter Jr’s coworkers, told The Sun on Sunday that they’re taught to flee life-threatening situations
“We are told our safety is most important and to get out if something like that happens.
“But he didn’t leave. That says everything you need to know about him.”
Bill Bratton, a former NYPD police commissioner, called Salter a “true hero” in a tribute post on social media.
“Salter Jr did what came natural as a retired cop – engaged the violent shooter at a Buffalo, NY supermarket where he worked.
“He sacrificed his life, and likely saved countless people.”
One of them was Stevo Johnson, a high school teacher, who searched among the chaos for four of his students and his aunt that he knew were working.
“We were running through the scene and looking for the red Tops shirts. We found everyone except one of my students,” he said.
The missing student was later found alive hiding inside the store, but “she’s not OK” mentally.
“The kids are scared, and rightfully so,” he said. “We treat all our students will love. We are here for them to tell us their problems and their jokes. You shower them with love. That’s how we get through this.”
‘ME AND MY SON, 2, COULD’VE BEEN DEAD’
Carmen White was surrounded by her family, including her two-year-old son, at the memorial across the street from Tops Monday morning.
She was driving down the road toward the grocery store while the gunman was inside when she got a call from her sister telling her to turn around.
“If my sister never called, I believe we would’ve been killed,” White said.
“I wish this would stop. All this violence. It’s traumatizing. I don’t think I can move on. I’m scared to go to the grocery store. I’m scared to let my kids go back to school.”
One of the 10 victims who died was a man who she affectionately called “Tiny” her whole life.
She said didn’t know his real name – which isn’t surprising given the close-knit community around the grocery store – but said he was a “quiet gentleman who stayed to himself.”
“He always helped people around here by carrying groceries or whatever they needed. He was a good man.”
The district attorney said Gendron’s defense attorney withdrew the forensic check.
It’s a procedural move that ensures Gendron will appear in court Thursday.
He’s currently being held in an Eerie County jail and is on suicide watch because he put the rifle under his chin when he was arrested, Eerie County Sheriff John Garcia said.
He’s also separated from the general population, the sheriff said.
“We want to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or someone else doesn’t hurt him,” Garcia told The Sun after Monday afternoon’s press conference.
Federal prosecutors are working on pressing charges at the federal level. Currently, Gendron faces one state charge, which he pleaded not guilty to at his arraignment.
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