Buffalo supermarket shooting: Who was Aaron Salter Jr., security guard killed by gunman?

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Aaron Salter Jr., the security guard who confronted and fired at the assailant before being fatally wounded during Saturday’s mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, was called “a hero in our eyes” by the city’s police chief.

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“He was a hero who tried to protect people in the store,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told CNN early Sunday in an interview.

Thirteen people were shot in the attack at Tops Friendly Market, located in a predominately Black neighborhood north of downtown Buffalo. Three people were killed in the parking lot and seven more were fatally shot inside the store.

Salter, 55, who was a lieutenant with the Buffalo Police Department for more than three decades, engaged Payton S. Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York, inside the supermarket Saturday afternoon. However, Gendron was wearing body armor and was not harmed by the shot. Gendron returned fire, killing Salter.

Of the 13 victims, 11 were Black and two were white, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.

Gendron was charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty on Saturday night.

Salter was described as “a beloved security guard” by city officials.

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“One of the individuals inside the store is a security guard, a beloved security guard, who is a retired Buffalo police officer — a hero in our eyes — he engaged the suspect and fired multiple shots,” Gramaglia said during a news conference.

“I had the pleasure of knowing him, great guy, well respected, well-liked. This is just horrific. It’s tragic,” Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans told WIVB-TV. “I don’t know what other words to describe it.”

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Here are some things to know about Salter.

Family background

Salter was the son of Aaron Salter Sr. and Carol Salter, and brother of Cashell L. Salter. According to his LinkedIn profile, Salter Jr. attended Canisius College, a private university in Buffalo. He received an associate’s degree in communication and media studies in 1988.

Carol Salter and Aaron Salter Sr. opened and operated AC Laundry & Dry Cleaners in Buffalo until closing the business in 1998.

Aaron Salter Sr. died on April 23, 2001, according to his obituary. Carol Salter Glover, who later married Otis Glover, worked for WUFO radio in suburban Buffalo as an on-air personality and assistant promotions manager. She died on Feb. 29, 2008, according to The Buffalo News.

Ties to Tops

Aaron Salter Jr. was a security guard at Tops after retiring from the Buffalo Police Department. His mother, Carol Salter worked for Tops Super Market in Central Park Plaza for 15 years as a cashier, according to the Uncrowned Community Builders website. She was promoted to head cashier and front end manager until she left the supermarket in 1986.

Latisha Rogers is an assistant office manager at Tops, where she has worked for three years and saw Salter in action, the News reported.

“Real cool guy,” Rogers told the newspaper about Salter. “Didn’t bother anybody. He just came to do his job.

“He was trying to save a lady and a baby, from what I’ve heard.”

Career police officer

Aaron Salter Jr. joined the Buffalo Police Department out of high school. His work as a police officer first came to light in a 1992 article in the News. Salter and his partner put out a kitchen fire and caught the arsonist as he attempted to escape.

In 1996 Salter faced a life-threatening incident when he and his partner responded to a burglary in progress, the newspaper reported. The two officers were confronted by a 25-year-old man, who approached them from behind and pointed a loaded, 12-gauge shotgun at them.

“My first reaction was to duck,” Salter told the News. “I don’t enjoy looking down the barrel of a shotgun, and if it hadn’t been for my partner shooting first, it would have been a golden opportunity to shoot us. My partner probably saved us.”

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Salter’s partner shot at the assailant but missed. The man eventually surrendered to a SWAT team, the newspaper reported.

After Salter’s death on Saturday, Evans said the Buffalo Police Department has reached out to his family to offer their condolences, WIVB reported.

An inventor

After retiring from the force, Salter worked on building vehicles that run on “green energy” and ran a company called AWS Hydrogen Technologies.

“I’m always working on my vehicles and or my project of running engines on water for the last four years or so,” Salter wrote in his LinkedIn profile. “I would like to realize my dream of getting cars to run off of water using my newly discovered energy source someday.”

In a 2015 video, Salter gave viewers a tour of his Ford F-150 pickup, which he said could be started with gasoline and then switched over to run on water.

“The guys used to laugh at me,” Salter said in a 2015 online interview as he described his work with solar items he once installed at his home.

A premonition

Salter Jr.’s son, Aaron Salter III, had worried about the type of attack that killed his father, the Daily Beast reported.

“If I hear another story of someone mass shooting innocent people or like yesterday the 20-year-old in Missouri who when to Walmart with an assault rifle and 100 rounds and recorded himself making comments to people shopping, I’m gonna lose my mind,” Salter III wrote on Facebook in August 2019. “(W)e can’t even do everyday (expletive) without having to watch our backs and that’s scary (expletive)! The sad thing is I feel like a crazy close to home is gonna do something soon and I’m not ready for that.”