Bruce Smith is determined to make sure the memory of Lt. Aaron W. Salter Jr. endures.
Smith, the Buffalo Bills’ Hall of Fame defensive end, was at Lockport Town & Country Club to host his second annual charity golf tournament Monday. Proceeds from the event support the Lt. Aaron Salter Memorial Scholarship Award, which is named after the retired Buffalo police officer who was slain during the racist mass shooting at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue just over a year ago while working as a security guard.
“Now that the one-year anniversary has come and passed, what I stated last year was, when the national media leaves, the national activists have moved on to other issues we're having around the country, it's just us,” Smith said. “It's up to us to support those who have been impacted by this horrific tragedy. It's incumbent upon us to continue to support these families, because they are going to have a lifetime of grief and pain.”
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Smith was joined by some of his former Bills teammates Monday, including Steve Tasker and Darryl Talley.
“It means a lot to us, because that's what we do,” Talley said when asked why it was important for him to be there. “We show up for one another. Just like the folks in Buffalo. You show up for each other. You show up and you show compassion. You show people that look, I do care. We care what happens. That's the team that I played on. That's the guys that I grew up with. Those are the guys that I love. We believe the same thing.
“We shouldn't have this much hatred in this world by now," Talley said. "All of that should have been gone. That should have died a long time ago … but it didn't. Some of us still inherited that or still keep breathing it, and I don't understand why we give it air. We shouldn't give hatred air. Hatred, bigotry, there is no place in this world for it.”
Salter was working as a security guard at Tops and was killed after exchanging gunfire with the assailant. He was hailed as a hero.
Salter excelled in technical and mechanical skills while a student at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School in the 1980s. The scholarship fund was founded by three of his close friends and former officers – Bradford Pitts, Earl Perrin Jr. and Nate Goldsmith. The fund awards scholarships to financially disadvantaged students from the City of Buffalo, and are to be used for books, laptop computers, transportation costs and other supplies necessary to have a successful college career.
“It’s been a little tough at times, you know what I mean? We have to deal with the family, and they're still going through it,” Perrin said of what the last year has been like since Salter was killed while exchanging gunfire with the assailant. “They still don't have their father, they still don't have their husband. A brother. So our keeping his memory alive is worth it. To be able to support young high school seniors and try to make them leaders in the community means it's worth it to us. What we're trying to do is bring up new leaders and show them that hate never wins and that if we all do the right thing and stick together, that we can overcome everything.”
The scholarship fund also hosted its inaugural half marathon and 5K on May 13, as well as a celebrity gala Sunday night.
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“This benefits Aaron Salter's legacy because he was a worker,” Perrin said. “I don't remember him ever working less than 60 hours a week. He always worked part-time jobs, so of course when he retired, he would keep working. … He was a worker, so how apropos that we would also be working this hard to keep his memory alive and to provide for the community, which is what he loved to do most. He served the community. Even after retirement, he continued to serve and gave his life trying to serve and protect the community, so how about we keep doing the same thing, keep his memory alive? I think that's totally appropriate.”
Smith said he was not surprised to see a strong turnout for such an important cause.
“This community just never ceases to amaze me in terms of coming to aid and rescue for those that are in need,” he said. “It's good to see. It just lets you know that people's hearts are in the right place, and there is no greater cause than coming out and supporting the heroism and the legacy of Aaron Salter.”