ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Hundreds of miles apart on the other side of the state but connected by one thing: faith. Pastor Nicolle Harris of the Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church in Schenectady says in passing at conferences, that she would see one of the victims of last Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo. But, it is through her congregants, Pastor Harris says, she learned more about who 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield was.

“As their pastor, I felt their pain. So met her briefly, but they had more experience with her over the decades. She was a member of the AME Zion Church for 50 years,” Pastor Harris explains, “so this is a face that they see at conferences, meetings, and banquets. Always was a sweet person. Always had a smile and I think everyone is now familiar with how she cared for her family and was caring for her husband and things so that’s who she was.”    

Ruth Whitfield was shot and killed along with nine others Saturday in a racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo. She is the oldest victim. Whitfield, according to Pastor Harris, belonged to the Durham Memorial AME Zion Church in that city; the sister church of Harris.

Ruth Whitfield, one of the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo, belonged to a sister church of Schenectady’s Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church.

“She cared for her husband. Her husband is in a nursing home. So she was leaving the nursing home so she was just stopping by the grocery store to get some things on her way home,” Harris says.

The pastor learned about Whitfield’s passing through a post from another pastor in the church. She says the mass shooting hits close to home and begs the question, “where are you safe”?  

“I think we’re all asking the question of where are you safe? Where are you safe. If you can’t go into a grocery store; you can’t go into a church; you can’t go into schools. Where are you safe,” the pastor asks, “so it is a concern because we are in the Black section of town. Our church is located right in the Hamilton Hill section of Schenectady and so knowing that this, this suspect sought out a Black community, well that’s right where we are.” 

Ten people were killed and three others suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were transported to local hospitals after a mass shooting at a supermarket on Buffalo’s East Side Saturday afternoon. 

The shooter was an 18-year-old white male who was heavily armed with tactical gear and was live-streaming during the mass shooting, officials said. City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the shooter is not from Buffalo and traveled “hours” from outside the area.

The gunman shot 11 Black people and two white people, police said. 

The shooter was identified in court Saturday evening as Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York, about 200 miles southeast of Buffalo. Gendron was arraigned on one count of first-degree murder without bail. 

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When Gendron exited his vehicle at the supermarket, authorities said, he shot four people in the parking lot. Three of them died and one is in the hospital. The shooter entered the store and opened fire on customers.

A retired Buffalo Police officer, Aaron Salter, who was working as a security guard, shot Gendron but he was unharmed because he was wearing armor, Gramaglia said. The retired officer was shot and killed.