Buffalo families begin to eulogize victims of racist attack

A person visits a memorial with pictures and writing on it.
A person visits a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

The first of several funerals for 10 Black people massacred at a Buffalo supermarket was planned for Friday, one day after victims’ families called on the nation to confront the threat of white supremacist violence.

A private service was scheduled for Heyward Patterson, who was a beloved deacon at a church not far from the Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Buffalo’s Black community. The family requested that the funeral be closed to the news media.

Patterson, 67, offered an informal taxi service to help people get home from the market with their grocery bags. Pastor Russell Bell of State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ said Patterson had been assisting someone with their groceries when he was shot and killed Saturday.


Tirzah Patterson, the deacon’s ex-wife and mother of their 12-year-old son, described Patterson as a good father. “He took care of him. Anything he asked for, he got it,” she said in a Thursday news conference with civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton and family attorney Ben Crump.

Jaques “Jake” Patterson, the deacon’s son, bared his grief at the news conference, covering his face with his hands as his mother spoke. Once she finished, Jake collapsed into Sharpton’s arms and cried silently, using his T-shirt to wipe his tears.

“His heart is broken,” Jake’s mother said, adding that her son was having trouble sleeping and eating.

“As a mother, what am I supposed to do to help him get through this?” she said.

A wake was scheduled Friday for Roberta Drury, the youngest of the people slain at the Buffalo market. The 32-year-old had walked to Tops to pick up groceries, said her mother, Dezzelynn McDuffie, with whom Drury had recently returned home to live.

Drury’s funeral will be held Saturday at Assumption Church in Syracuse, about 152 miles east of Buffalo. Her family has also requested that the service be closed to the media.

Funerals for five other Buffalo shooting victims were scheduled for throughout next week.