Workers and shoppers described the chaos and carnage at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo when an 18-year-old opened fire at the store in what officials called a racially-motivated mass shooting on Saturday that left 10 people dead and three others injured.
The shooting sent those in the store fleeing for their lives outside of the nearest exit, or hiding in coolers. Several friends and family members of those who were at the store are awaiting any news of their loved ones hours later.
Officials have not yet released the names of the victims, but said 11 of those shot were black and two were white. One victim is a retired Buffalo police officer.
Shonnell Harris, an operation manager at the Tops, told The Buffalo News she heard 70 shots ring out in the market, which was “packed” with weekend shoppers.
She said she fell several times as she sprinted towards the back of the market. She said she saw the shooter, who has been identified as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York, which is over three hours away from Buffalo.
“It’s like a dream, but I know it’s not a dream,” Harris said.
Her daughter also works at the supermarket, she told the paper. Harris said she was able to track down her daughter, who was safe in the back of the store.
“I just grabbed her, I hugged her.”
A dairy worker at the Tops market said he took shelter inside of the cooler where he had been stocking milk moments before gunfire erupted.
“I just heard shots. Shots and shots and shots,” he told the paper. “It sounded like things were falling over.”
He said other frightened people joined him in the cooler.
“I hid. I just hid. I wasn’t going to leave that room.”
Veronica Hemphill-Nichols said she was on her way into the Tops for a simple trip for a loaf of bread when she saw bodies laying on the ground in the parking lot.
She told the Buffalo News she “just broke,” after seeing the bodies and is now “trying to power down.”
Across the street from the Tops, retired firefighter and medic Katherine Crofton recalled seeing the Gendron after hearing the gunfire ring out while she sat on her porch with her dog. She told the paper she saw him shoot two women.
“I didn’t see him at first, I turned around and I saw him shoot this woman,” Crofton told the paper. “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.”
She described the tense scene as Gendron emerged from inside the market and was confronted by responders. Crofton said he “just stood there” as law enforcement officers screamed at him, “like he wanted them to shoot him.”
Gendron was taken into custody by police and was arraigned hours later on Saturday.
The mass shooting — which is the largest so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive — is being investigated “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.
Officials said Gendron arrived at the supermarket heavily armed and wearing tactical gear. In the parking lot, he killed three people and injured a fourth.
A security guard and former Buffalo cop tried to stop him and shot at Gendron, but the bullet did not pierce his armor. The shooter shot and killed the guard and continued his deadly rampage inside the store.
Gendronn also brought a camera and live streamed the massacre on Twitch, the streaming platform confirmed. The stream was removed from the site two minutes after the shooting began, a spokesperson told The Post.