BUFFALO, N.Y. — One of the first victims from the mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on Saturday to be publicly identified, was Aaron Salter Jr.
He was a retired Buffalo Police Officer who worked at the store as an armed security guard.
He is also being hailed as a hero, who died while trying to save others.
"In my heart and in my mind Aaron was a hero," said Kimberly Beaty, of her friend and former colleague who was among the ten people killed in the massacre.
From what police have said thus far, when the accused gunman in the shootings, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, made his way through the store wearing bulletproof armor and firing rounds from a semi-automatic rifle Salter, armed with a pistol, valiantly engaged the threat.
"We have evidence that he (Salter) struck him at least one time and that unfortunately had no effect," said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, who said Salter died during the exchange.
He Would Lay Down His Life
"It's just a big shock to me and I feel very sick over it," said Scott Escobar, a retired Buffalo Police Officer who worked alongside Salter for several years in the BPD Traffic Division.
Escobar noted that Salter, as a police officer for 30 years before his retirement in 2022, spent his career trying to protect others.
So it came as no shock to him that Salter spent his last moments on earth doing the same thing.
"Aaron was a great individual and I know in his heart he wanted to save as many people as he could and it didn't surprise me to hear he engaged the guy right away and tried to stop him...he was the kind of guy that would lay down his life like that and protect his community," Escobar said.
"Surviving a job in law enforcement and making it to retirement is a big deal for you and your family because they expect you can ride it out now and enjoy your life," said Beaty, who retired from the police department as Deputy Commissioner and is currently Director of Campus Safety at Canisius College. "And then you have people who want to continue to work in the spirit of their community and that's what Aaron Salter was doing."
"He helped so many people n this community," said Thomas Whitt, who described himself as a regular customer at the store where he got to know Salter. His voice filled with grief, Whitt continued, "...to have him gunned down like this?... Oh my God..."
"We suffered a tremendous, tremendous loss yesterday …and it's heartbreaking," said Beaty, before turning away momentarily to collect herself.
2 On Your Side did attempt to speak with Salter's family, but we were told that they are not granting interviews at this time.