More chilling details have emerged about the racist mass shooting that claimed the lives of 10 people at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday. As more victims share their harrowing stories of survival, organizations are coming together to help in any way that they can.
Information about how everyday people can also help the victims has been made readily available as authorities revealed that the gunman, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron, had been planning the vicious attack for months before the shooting.
“We found some things that show that he was here in early March, and then again, we know he was here on Friday, basically doing reconnaissance on the area,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “He was in the store, both on Friday and Saturday.”
On the social media platform Discord, Gendron shared posts noting how he visited the supermarket in March between the hours of 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. According to officials, the self-described white supremacist documented how many “Black and White people were there” and drew a comprehensive map “depicting the store aisles, pharmacy, bakery and exit points of the building.”
On his last visit before the shooting, Gendron said a “Black armed security guard” grew suspicious because he had seen him “go in and out” of the market multiple times. He told the guard that he was collecting “consensus data,” but the guard asked him to speak to a manager.
In one post dated March 10, Gendron allegedly wrote:
“I’m going to have to kill that security guard at Tops I hope he doesn’t kill me or even hurt me instantly.”
The chilling news comes as investigators obtained a 180-page manifesto, allegedly written by Gendron, detailing more motives behind the shooting. In the purported manifesto, he called himself a fascist, a white supremacist, and an anti-Semite. He also talked about the dwindling size of the white population.
Sadly, the community of Buffalo is struggling to piece together the senseless attack and the lives lost during the tragic event. Some survivors who escaped from the market are now coming forward, sharing harrowing stories about the events that unfolded from inside the supermarket during the shooting.
A Tops employee says 911 hung up on her during the shooting
A Tops employee identified as Latisha told local news station WGRZ that she hid behind the customer service counter as the suspect began shooting. She called 911 to send help, whispering to the dispatcher as she feared the shooter would hear her.
“When I whispered on the phone to 911, the dispatcher would start yelling at me saying ‘Why are you whispering? You don’t have to whisper.’ and I’m trying to tell her ma’am he’s in the store, he’s shooting, it’s an active shooter, I’m scared for my life,” Latisha, who had spent the last 13 years working at Tops as an assistant manager recalled.
Then, the dispatcher hung up on her.
“She said something crazy to me, and she hung up in my face,” Latisha recalled. “I had to call my boyfriend to tell him to call 911.”
In an interview with the Buffalo News, the shaken employee said the shooting brought back horrific memories of the 2010 City Grill shooting when a gunman opened fire at the restaurant, killing four people and wounding four more. One of those victims was her brother.
“I was there when that happened and that was a massacre, and now I have to relive a whole other massacre,” Latisha said.
Latisha said she worries for people in the community now that the store will be closed for the foreseeable future. Many residents relied on the supermarket for fresh food, as it was the closest market in the area.
“I know a lot of the regulars. I know a lot of residents that come in there. I’ve been here for three years,” she added. “That store is very important to that community. I didn’t realize how important it was until I started working there. They love that store. That is just a traumatic experience to have in that community like that.”
An 8-year-old hid in a cooler with her father when shots rang out
Eight-year-old Londin Thomas and her parents were shopping at the Tops Friendly Market when the shooter opened fire. While speaking to ABC News affiliate WKBW, the young, brave survivor said she and her father hid in a cooler as the shooter carried out the vicious attack.
“We went to the back of the store where the milk is,” the young girl recalled of the scary incident. “The door was locked, and we could not get out until the manager opened the door. Then, we had to go out the back door. The cops led us out.”
Londin’s mom, Julie Hartwell, ducked for cover at the front of the store. She recalled hearing “Gallons of milk” exploding as bullets flew in all directions around the market. Hartwell said she panicked when she could hear the suspect’s footsteps getting closer.
“My first instinct was dropping down to the floor on my chest, not really trying to put my head up, not really trying to look at anything, just focusing on trying to get somewhere safe. But at the same time, I’m worried about my daughter,” Hartwell told the news outlet.
Londin said she was scared for her mother.
“I did not know what happened to her because she was at the front and I was at the back,” Londin added. “I didn’t know where she was. I thought she was gone.”
Thankfully, Londin and her parents made it out of the building safely. Londin and her dad exited from a different side of the building than her mother. That initially sent Hartwell into panic, as she was separated from her loved ones for at least 20 minutes–“the longest wait” of her life she said.
“Twenty minutes later, they gave me my daughter,” Hartwell said.
Throughout the entire shooting, Londin told the news outlet that she remained calm and brave because of her father.
“I’m okay. There’s nothing wrong with me,” the young hero added.
How to help Buffalo victims
Tops has created the Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund to help people impacted by the tragic shooting. The company partnered with the National Compassion Fund on the initiative and, according to WGRZ, Tops had already gained $500,000 in donations as of Wednesday afternoon. All of the funds will provide direct financial assistance to the survivors of the deceased and those directly affected by the tragedy.
Additionally, FeedMore WNY, an independent non-profit organization, is partnering with the Resource Council of WNY to distribute food donations to community members. The organization will be accepting food donations at 91 Holt St. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. People can donate money directly through FeedMore WNY’s website.
Former NFL star Thurman Thomas and his wife Patti have raised more than $100,000 through their family foundation to help victims. Thomas told the Associated Press that he and a few other members from the league will be visiting Buffalo this week to help out on the ground. Thomas used to play for the Buffalo Bills, so this tragedy hits close to “home” for him.
“I’m a little emotional right now. Really, I am,” Thomas said at a news conference on Monday. “I’m hurting for the city that I love. I’m hurting for the people on the east side, their families, our friends, and our community. You read about stuff happening in other states, but when it’s right here at home, it’s tough. It really is tough and this is a time that we need to come together.”
More ways to help
The Buffalo Community Fridge is seeking donations to get fresh food to the community. Non-perishable food items, water bottles, Gatorade, as well as toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, diapers, dish soap, and formula are needed. All food donations will be accepted at 257 E. Ferry St. WIVB notes that donations of milk, eggs, cheese baby formula and labeled cooked meats are welcomed as well. Here are a few more organizations you can consider donating to, per WIVB:
- Buffalo Mass Shooting Help The Families Fund (Board of VictimsFirst.org)
- The families of the victims of Buffalo shooting (OnCore Golf CEO Keith Blakely)
- Buffalo Memorial (Reporters Ron Insana and Luke Russert)
- Buffalo Tragedy Donate to victims families (Esra’a Taha of Buffalo Skincare and Beauty)
- Community Support to Feed the East Side (Feed Buffalo and partners)
- Aaron Salter Jr Fundraiser (Aaron Salter III)
- Tops Markets (Buffalo resident Joni Falk)
- Black Love Resists in the Rust – Buffalo
- WNY Mobile Overdose Prevention Services
- Colored Girls Bike Too
- Rooted In Love, Inc.