Who was Aaron Salter Jr? Slain HERO cop fought to stop Payton Gendron enter Buffalo market

Authorities said that Salter, a father-of-three, acted like the cop he was, pulling out his weapon and trying to take the gunman down


                            Who was Aaron Salter Jr? Slain HERO cop fought to stop Payton Gendron enter Buffalo market
Aaron Salter Jr (L) was killed by Buffalo supermarket gunman Payton Gendron (R) (AW SalterJr/Facebook and Tanner Stewart/Facebook)
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BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Ten people were shot dead and three others wounded in a “racially motivated” mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday, May 14. Law enforcement identified the shooter as Payton Gendron, 18, who drove from 'hours away' in Conklin, New York, to the Tops market on Jefferson Avenue. The shooting took place in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

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Eleven of the victims were Black and two of them were White. “We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially-motivated violent extremism,” said Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office said during a press conference. Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said, "This was pure evil. It was a straight-up racially motivated hate crime."

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The first victim of the shooting who has been named is Aaron Salter Jr, a former Buffalo police officer who is being hailed for trying to stop the gunman. When Gendron tried to enter the supermarket, the longtime security guard and former Buffalo cop tried to stop him. However, Salter's bullet could not pierce the attacker's armor. Gendron then shot Salter dead.

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Who was Aaron Salter Jr?

Authorities said that Salter, a father-of-three, acted like the cop he was, pulling out his weapon and trying to take Gendron down. However, the bullet could not enter the gunman's body armor. Two people who saw Gendron said he was wearing camouflage attire with a black helmet.

“Today is a shock,” the late cop's son, Aaron Salter III, told The Daily Beast. “I’m pretty sure he saved some lives today. He’s a hero.” Salter, who joined the Buffalo Police Department right out of high school, leaves behind three children.

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Salter had faced down another gunman in 1996 but managed to escape death. “My first reaction was to duck,” he had told The Buffalo News after a burglary suspect threatened him with a 12-gauge shotgun. “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 cousin, Adam Bennefield, said that the family was devastated after the mass shooting. “I don’t think anybody could ever anticipate something like this happening,” Bennefield, 44, said. “I don’t think anybody can. Everybody’s hurt right now, everybody’s upset.” He said that he had a lot of respect in his heart for Salter who had deep knowledge about police work and also “things outside of being an officer.”

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Salter was pursuing his dream of building vehicles that run on green energy. He had a company called AWS Hydrogen Technologies. His LinkedIn bio reads, "I have been a police officer for the last 27 years the last two I have been in the traffic division, I do the events at the First Niagara Center along with riding the motorcycle doing parades and races around the city of Buffalo. I'm a jack of all trades a master of none I'm always working on my vehicles and or my project of running engines on water for the last four years or so, I would like to realize my dream of getting cars to run off of water using my newly discovered energy source some day."

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Salter’s late mother, Carol, worked as a cashier at a Tops market in Buffalo for 15 years. She and her late husband, Aaron Salter, Sr, also had dry cleaners, which they ran till 1998 before it closed. 

The Buffalo supermarket shooting

The suspect, Gendron, arrived at the market at around 2:30 pm. He “was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear on. He had a tactical helmet on,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. He confirmed that Gendron even had a camera to live-stream the shooting.

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The gunman first opened fire in the parking lot, killing three people and injuring one. He then entered the store, where he faced Salter. After killing Salter, Gendron worked his way through the rest of the store, Gendron was confronted by Buffalo cops, who talked him into surrendering. At one point, he had reportedly put his gun to his own neck. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn vowed to arraign the attacker on a charge of first-degree murder “within the hour". “I don’t want to give him any celebritism right now. I don’t want to do anything that puts any attention on him,” Flynn said.

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Gendron has pleaded not guilty to the killings, his lawyer has confirmed, according to the Daily Mail. The shooter reportedly scrawled the N-word on his rifle before carrying out the massacre.

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