GETZVILLE, NY ( Associated Press) – The retired police officer who was killed while trying to stop a gunman in a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket was honored with the department’s medal of honor at his funeral on Wednesday, as the country closed a Texas school. In the process of another massacre, in which 19 children and two adults were killed.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia also posthumously promoted Aaron Salter to lieutenant, noting that his actions on May 14—firing multiple times at the shooter, striking his body armor—bought valuable time that helped other people in the store. was allowed to escape.
“Aaron fought evil bravely that day,” Gramaglia said at the chapel in Getzville, where law enforcement officers from the US and Canadian departments filled a dozen lines.
Services were also held for Pearl Young, a 77-year-old grandmother, great-grandmother and substitute teacher devoted to her church.
Salter and Young were among 10 black people whose white gunman with a helmet-mounted camera targeted shoppers and workers at Top Friendly Market, a predominantly black neighborhood, on Saturday afternoon. Three others were injured in the attack, which federal officials are investigating as a hate crime.
Conklin’s 18-year-old suspect, Peyton Gendron, has been charged with murder and is being held without bail.
Gendron was in a Buffalo City courtroom with his lawyers on Wednesday to ask a judge to restrain Erie County prosecutors from commenting on the case to avoid influencing potential jurors. The Buffalo News reported that the judge did not rule immediately, but asked attorneys to refrain from speaking publicly until prosecutors and defense attorneys can discuss the guidelines going forward.
Salter, 55, of Lockport, working as a security guard at the store in his retirement, was a natural move for the community-minded officer with a loud laugh that would “blow your senses” and who sips bubble gum. Chewed loudly, said retired deputy police commissioner Kimberly Beatty, who worked with Salter.
“Aaron didn’t come to work for fun, he came to do his job,” Beatty said, “but we enjoyed watching him do it.”
Salter retired from the department in 2018 after nearly 30 years. Police said at least one of his bullets hit the suspect’s armor-plated vest, but it didn’t.
Mourners remembered Young as a God-fearing woman and a cherished friend. She was a longtime volunteer at her church’s soup kitchen and worked as a substitute teacher at Buffalo public schools.
“Her name is beautiful, like a beautiful pearl,” said Young’s eldest sister, Mary Craig of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, during a service held at the Elim Christian Fellowship in Buffalo.
She used these adjectives to describe her late sister: precious, exuberant, adored, righteous and loving. The first letter of each indicates the name Pearl.
Acting Superintendent Tonja Williams read a condolence letter to the mourners, remembering Young as a long-term, “very active” substitute teacher. The students affectionately called her “Miss Pearl,” Williams said.
“She was excited to return to the classroom and enjoyed working with the high school students. Pearl was a hard worker and devoted to the students she served,” Williams read from the letter.
Sister-in-law Gloria Anderson told mourners that Young took the service of unbelievers seriously. “Wherever Pearl went, she told someone about Jesus,” Anderson said.
Young and Anderson attended a prayer breakfast together on the day of the supermarket shooting. Anderson said he felt a “spiritual high” that morning.
“It was one of the most wonderful times I’ve had in a long time,” she said.
After breakfast, Young asks Anderson to drop her off at Topps’ Friendly Market so she can pick up some things. Anderson said he believed only a few minutes passed after he turned away to drive home, before the gunman opened fire. Anderson said he felt the survivor’s guilt but leaned on his faith to cope.
“I’m going to miss her a lot, but I know that one day, Pearl and Gloria are going to be back together again,” Anderson said.
Funerals were held for some of the Buffalo victims before another mass shooting made headlines. Texas officials say 18-year-old Salvador Ramos attacked Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Tuesday, firing an AR-15-style rifle. Nineteen students and two teachers died. The police killed Ramos.
In Buffalo, 62-year-old Geraldine Talley’s funeral is to take place on Friday. Ruth Whitfield, 86, will be cremated on Saturday. The Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to deliver those eulogies.
“It is one thing to experience personal grief,” said Salter’s childhood friend, Rodney Cunningham, “and it is quite another to experience personal grief that is part of a national culture war that has apparently been going on for years. There is no end in sight.”
Morrison reported from New York City.