Security guard who died confronting Buffalo mass shooter hailed ‘a true hero’ – National

A retired Buffalo police officer who worked security at the grocery store where a gunman opened fire Saturday is being hailed as a hero for confronting and shooting the suspect before being fatally shot.

Aaron Salter Jr. was one of 10 people killed in the attack, which is being investigated as a racially motivated hate crime. Nearly all of those killed or wounded were black, including Salter.

Authorities say the 55-year-old security guard fired his gun multiple times at the attacker and hit his bulletproof vest at least once. The gunman was uninjured and returned fire, killing Salter, according to police.

“He’s a true hero,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday. “There could have been more victims if it weren’t for his actions.”

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Buffalo shooting victims: Former police officer, community advocate among 10 killed

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US President Joe Biden also praised Salter’s bravery during a White House event on Monday honoring police and other public safety officials.

Salter “gave his life trying to save others,” Biden said.

Payton Gendron, 18, was arrested at the supermarket and charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

Click to play video: 'Buffalo supermarket shooting: White House pays tribute to victims'

Buffalo supermarket shooting: White House pays tribute to victims

Buffalo supermarket shooting: White House pays tribute to victims

Those who knew Salter told local media that his goal during his 30 years as a police officer in Buffalo was to protect his community. That momentum continued even after he retired from the force in 2018, they said.

“Aaron was a great person and I know in his heart that he wanted to save as many people as he could,” Scott Escobar, a retired Buffalo police officer who worked alongside Salter for several years in the traffic division, told affiliate WGRZ. local NBC.

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“I wasn’t surprised to hear that he stood up to the guy right away and tried to stop him…he was the kind of guy who would lay down his life like that and protect his community.”

Kimberly Beaty, a former deputy commissioner with the Buffalo Police Department who currently heads campus security at Canisius College, suggested to WGRZ that Salter didn’t need to take the security job, but did so to keep helping people.

“Surviving a job in law enforcement and reaching retirement is a big deal for you and your family because they hope you can get through it now and enjoy your life,” he said. “And then you have people who want to continue to work in the spirit of their community and that’s what Aaron Salter was doing.”

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Customers said Salter knew shoppers at Tops Friendly Market by name and was a beloved figure in the predominantly black neighborhood.

Salter, who in the late 1980s applied to become a police officer right out of high school, was also no stranger to getting into dangerous situations.

He is quoted in a 1996 Buffalo News article as one of two police officers who responded to an armed robbery and one of the suspects pointed a shotgun at them.

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“My first reaction was to duck,” Salter said. “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.”

Salter is also listed as an educator with the Buffalo Public Schools from 2008 to 2011, where he worked as a substitute teacher.

Click to play video: 'Learning about the lives lost in the Buffalo supermarket shooting'

Learning about the lives lost in the Buffalo supermarket shooting

Learning about the lives lost in the Buffalo supermarket shooting

But it seems that his true passion was being an amateur scientist and inventor. He spent years working on a car engine that could run on water in an effort to limit gasoline use, splitting molecules with electricity to isolate hydrogen and convert it to energy.

“He was very passionate about this,” Steven Malkowski, a friend and retired Buffalo police officer who served as Salter’s supervisor, told the Buffalo News.

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“He was trying to contact people who could help him with the production of this. I’m not a mechanical guy, but he had it all planned out.

A 2015 video highlighting Salter’s company, AWS Hydrogen Technologies, gives a tour of his custom truck that uses the hydrogen electrolysis-powered prototype engine he developed.

In another video from the same year, Salter gives an interview where he describes his commitment to green energy, including a set of solar panels he installed to heat his home.

He said he hoped to partner with a company that could bring his water-powered engine to life for vehicles, generators and even boats and RVs.

“I am a Buffalo police officer and I make a good salary, but there is no way I can power an entire industry on this salary,” he said.

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“This is my contribution.”

Salter leaves behind a wife and three children who have largely avoided interviews.

His son, Aaron Salter III, told the Daily Beast shortly after Saturday’s shooting that his father’s death was “a shock,” while calling him “a hero.”

— with files from Mike Drolet of Global News and the Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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