It has been my privilege—in many cases, an honor—to have known movie stars, television personalities, politicians from both sides of the aisle, activists, decorated soldiers, criminals, business czars, and just about every jazz musician who has lived during my lifetime.
There are ten people I would have liked to know. Sadly, those ten lives were the latest victims of an eighteen-year-old, antisemitic, white supremacist armed with a modified AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. His name is Payton Gendron. It is my fervent wish that his name will soon be forgotten. Folk tales about racist murderers are nothing we need in our national conversation.
We need to not forget about the victims of this most heinous of acts.
Roberta A. Drury, 32, Buffalo, N.Y.; Margus D. Morrison, 52, Buffalo, N.Y.; Andre Mackneil, 53, Auburn, N.Y.; Aaron Salter, 55, Lockport, N.Y.; Geraldine Talley, 62, Buffalo, N.Y.; Celestine Chaney 65, Buffalo, N.Y.; Heyward Patterson, 67, Buffalo, N.Y.; Katherine Massey, 72, Buffalo, N.Y.; Pearl Young, 77, Buffalo, N.Y.; Ruth Whitfield, 86, Buffalo, N.Y.
Like most of us, they led remarkably unremarkable lives, except to those who called them friend and neighbor, dad, or brother, or sister, mom, grandma, grandpa, cousin, aunt or uncle. To their survivors, the victims were the stalwarts of their families and in their communities. They showed their humanity by their various acts of kindness, the survivors recalled.
Their work was not yet finished.
Robert Donald, 75, the owner of Vintage Firearms in Endicott, N.Y., told National Public Radio that the firearm was purchased earlier this year. He said that he had run a background check on the18-year-old suspect, but that the report showed nothing.
The purchase took place mere months after New York state police briefly took Gendron into custody after he made a threat about a shooting, as authorities have described.
Last June, state police investigated the alleged shooter and ordered a psychiatric evaluation. After a day and a half in a hospital, he was released, authorities confirmed. Afterward, he did not remain on law enforcement’s radar.
The timing of the gun purchase, along with Donald’s report of a clean background check, raises questions about why a police-ordered mental health evaluation would not have appeared on the report. It seems to me that a red flag should have been raised.
The alleged perpetrator of Saturday’s mass shooting planned to continue his attack beyond the Tops supermarket had he not been stopped by police, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told ABC News on Monday.
“We have uncovered information that if he escaped the [Tops] supermarket, he had plans to continue his attack,” Gramaglia said. “He had plans to continue driving down Jefferson Avenue to shoot more black people…possibly go to another store [or] location.”
Eleven of the 13 people who were shot — including all 10 who died — are Black.
The alleged shooter was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge hours after he was taken into custody, according to law enforcement officials.
The FBI is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and “an instance of racially motivated violent extremism.” Federal authorities are also looking at potential terrorism charges, according to reports.
In this instance, and in seemingly countless others, the background checks are clearly lacking in providing much useful information. It is obvious that a more proactive approach to background checks is warranted. We should be clamoring to establish more meaningful waiting periods. And the conversation about ownership of weaponry whose sole purpose is to take human lives needs vigilant action.
We owe it to ourselves and others to establish effective gun laws that will keep any armaments out of the hands of criminals and the mentally disturbed.
Let’s not forget those whose lives were taken.
Their sacrifice need not be forgotten. May their memories be for blessings.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
Count Basie Beef Pie Cobbler Recipe
Bessie M. Gant was a prominent African American Pittsburgh caterer in her day who cooked for celebrities like Count Basie. In her newspaper column “Bout Good Things to Eat,” she celebrated Basie’s tour and her love for his music with several recipes. She wrote, “when Count Basie stops in your town on his tour, prepare this dish for him. But follow the directions carefully or the Count will count me out of his long list of friends.”
2 pounds steak
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 Tbs. flour
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups diced raw potatoes
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
a good pie crust pastry recipe
Cut meat into 1-inch cubes and sauté in olive oil until browned. Add onions and cook until softened. Stir in seasoning, parsley, flour and mix well. Add water slowly stirring constantly. Add potatoes; cover and simmer for about 30 min. Pour into greased 8-inch casserole. Cover with pie crust pastry rolled 1/4 inch thick. Prick with work to allow steam to escape. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes until golden brown.