Buffalo supermarket shooting: Mother of former fire commissioner devoted to family

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The mother of Buffalo’s former commissioner was identified as one of the 10 people killed when a gunman opened fire at a supermarket Saturday afternoon.

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Garnell Whitfield confirmed that his 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, died in the mass shooting in western New York, WKBW-TV reported. Buffalo police have not officially listed the names of the victims.

“My mom was the consummate mom. My mother was a mother to the motherless,” Garnell Whitfield, 64, told The Buffalo News. “She was a blessing to all of us. She loved God and taught us to do the same thing.”

Ruth Whitfield was shopping in the Tops Friendly Market when the alleged shooter, Payton S. Gendron, opened fire. Gendron first shot four people in the supermarket’s parking lot, killing three, then fatally shot seven people inside the store while broadcasting live on the streaming platform Twitch, The Associated Press reported.

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Garnell Whitfield was among the crowd of people standing near the supermarket at 9 p.m. EDT on Saturday waiting for information.

“I’m right across from Tops,” Whitfield told the News on Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT as he waited for more information. “I never dreamed I’d ever be having a phone call like this.”

Cassietta Whitfield said her mother-in-law was religious and family-oriented, The New York Times reported.

“She was a religious woman who cared deeply for her family,” Cassietta Whitfield said. “She’ll be truly missed.”

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Ruth Whitfield had lived in Buffalo for more than five decades and raised four children, according to the newspaper. She attended church at Durham Memorial A.M.E. Zion church for 50 years and sang in the choir, Cassietta Whitfield told the Times.

Garnell Whitfield said his 88-year-old father, who has lived in a Buffalo nursing home for the past eight years, worked several jobs so his wife could stay home and take care of their children, the News reported.

“She’d take my brother and I to football practice, twice a day sometimes, and she never missed a game,” Garnell Whitfield told the newspaper. “And that was just us. She did that kind of thing for all the children.”

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Ruth Whitfield was returning from the nursing home and stopped at Tops for food, Garnelle Whitfield told WGRZ-TV.

“She went there every day. She took care of our dad as she’d done her whole married life,” Garnell Whitfield told the News. “She brought him clean clothes, clipped his nails, shaved him, cut his hair. She did everything.”

Ruth Whitfield leaves behind eight grandchildren, the Times reported.

“We have to rally as a family around my father and make sure that he’s well cared for,” Garnell Whitfield told The Washington Post. “Something she would be proud of us for. So we’ve got a big task ahead of us.”