Officials in Buffalo said a retired police officer who was on duty as a security guard when a gunman fatally shot 10 people at a supermarket on Saturday likely saved others from being killed before he was struck.
According to CBS News, Aaron Salter Jr. served on the Buffalo police force for decades before he retired several years ago. The former cop was working as a security guard at Tops Friendly Markets when 18-year-old Payton Gendron entered the premises and allegedly opened fire. Salter confronted the suspected gunman and fired at him. But the bullets did not penetrate Gendron as he was wearing an armored vest. Grendon returned fire and killed Salter.
“He’s a true hero, and we don’t know what he prevented. There could have been more victims if not for his actions. He’s been retired for several years. He’s been a beloved member and employee of Tops here, working security and he went down fighting,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told ABC’s This Week. “We’re sure he saved lives yesterday.”
Salter’s bravery was also touted by Erie County Sheriff John Garcia during a press conference on the mass shooting on Sunday. “I can’t say enough about our retired fellow colleague, Aaron Salter, who confronted this individual to save the lives of others. And may he rest in peace,” said Garcia.
Officials are investigating the mass shooting as a racially motivated hate crime on both a state and federal level. Gendron allegedly shot 13 people, and 11 of them – including Salter – were Black.
Buffalo officers who responded to the shooting ultimately took Gendron into custody after they persuaded him to lay down his weapon. Gendron had pointed the gun at himself before he eventually surrendered, CBS News reported.
“Our officers very courageously used every deescalation tactic that they could. They talked him down. It was a pretty one-sided fight there with the armor that he had, and they were able to safely take him into custody with no further shots being fired,” Gramaglia said at the press conference.
Gendron, who has been placed on suicide watch, has since been charged with murder. He has, however, pleaded not guilty.
Officials claim Gendron’s actions were racially motivated, and he specifically chose his location because it is a predominantly Black neighborhood. Prior to the attack, Grendon allegedly went online and posted a racist manifesto he wrote. Per the document, the suspected gunman talked about ethnic minorities replacing White Americans. This ideology has reportedly instigated multiple mass shootings in the United States.
“We are certainly saddened that someone drove from hundreds of miles away, someone not from this community, that did not know this community, that came here to take as many Black lives as possible, who did this in a willful, premeditated fashion, planning this,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said in an interview with Face the Nation on Sunday.