Holding vigil Saturday night outside the Tops supermarket where his 86-year-old mother was one of the 10 people murdered hours earlier , retired Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield found light and joy in the life Ruth Whitfield lived.
The African American mother of four had been shopping when she was shot by a white teenager who drove several hours here to commit what authorities believe was a racially motivated massacre.
Buffalo's worst mass shooting takes 10 lives, leaves 3 wounded; attack called 'a racially motivated hate crime'
Ten people were gunned down at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday in a horrifying mass shooting that officials were quick to label as "pure evil" and racially motivated. The shooting stunned a community basking in a warm May afternoon, with shoppers filling the Tops in a predominantly Black neighborhood at 1275 Jefferson Ave.
“I’m right across from Tops,” Whitfield told a reporter at about 9 p.m. in a phone call as he and other family members waited for more information. “I never dreamed I’d ever be having a phone call like this.”
Though grief stricken, Whitfield wanted people to know what kind of woman his mother was.
“My mom was the consummate mom. My mother was a mother to the motherless. She was a blessing to all of us. She loved God and taught us to do the same thing,” he said.
People are also reading…
He said his 88-year-old father, who resides in a Buffalo nursing home, had worked multiple jobs so that his wife could stay home and take care of their children.
“She’d take my brother and I to football practice, twice a day sometimes, and she never missed a game. And that was just us. She did that kind of thing for all the children.”
Eight years ago, when Garnell Whitfield Sr. entered Highpointe on Michigan, his wife’s devotion to him remained steadfast.
“She went there every day. She took care of our dad as she’d done her whole married life. She brought him clean clothes, clipped his nails, shaved him, cut his hair. She did everything,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield, 64, credited his mother’s strength and commitment to family to her religious faith.
“She inspired me to be a man of God, and to do whatever I do the best I could do. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her,” Whitfield said in citing the role his mother played in his rise to the top position in the Buffalo Fire Department.
Ruth Whitfield was a member of the Durham Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.
“She gave her life to her family,” the son said, before explaining that he had to end the phone call. “They’re starting to bring the bodies out.”
That was at about 9:30 p.m.