Buffalo shooting witnesses say they ran for their lives as shots rang out


BUFFALO, New York — A weekend trip to the grocery store descended into bloody tragedy for dozens of people Saturday.

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Jennifer Tookes, of Buffalo, had been in the Tops Friendly Market shopping with a cousin on separate aisles for about two minutes when she heard multiple gunshots coming from the front of the store.

“He stopped, shot again,” she said. “Stopped, and started shooting again.”

The shooting “was coming from the front of the store and as I ran it was getting closer,” she said, recounting her escape. “You could hear him coming toward the back of the store.”

“I was just praying and trying to get out. That’s all I could do.”

When it was over, 10 people were dead and three were wounded. A white 18-year-old who dressed in tactical gear and carried an assault weapon was arrested at the scene. He was arraigned Saturday evening on a first-degree murder charge and jailed without bond.

A document that claims to have been written by the suspect was posted to Google Docs on Thursday night, and cites a false theory frequently pushed by white supremacists. A senior law enforcement official said authorities were working to verify the document’s authenticity.

Of the 13 people who were shot, 11 are Black and two are white, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.

After Tookes got to the Tops deli, she ran through two doors and reached the outside, she said. She headed to her car to call her cousin.

“I saw the three bodies laying outside in the parking lot. One was right by the door. One man was by his car. Another girl was right there.”

She learned later that her cousin had hidden in the store’s freezer until the gunfire stopped.

“I’ll have this in my head for the rest of my life,” Tookes said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go into a grocery store or a store.”

Store operation manager Shonnell Harris told the Buffalo News she fell several times as she ran through the packed store to get away from the gunfire. The shooter, she said, was a white man who “looked like he was in the Army,” in fatigues and wearing a helmet. She estimated she heard more than 70 shots.

Katherine Crofton, a retired firefighter and medic, told the News she saw the shooting from her porch.

“I turned around and I saw him shoot this woman,” Crofton said. “She was just going into the store. And then he shot another woman. She was putting groceries into her car. I got down because I did not know if he was going to shoot me.”

Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, told the Associated Press they had pulled into the parking lot just as the shooter was coming out of the store. They, too, described a white male in his late teens or early 20s in camouflage, wearing a black helmet and carrying a long gun.

“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like, “What the heck is going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face?’” Kephart said. Then, the man dropped to his knees. “He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun, and was tackled by the police.”