Funeral held for youngest victim of Buffalo supermarket shooting

Roberta Drury was described as ‘big hearted’ with a ‘smile that could light up a room’ as she was laid to rest on Saturday

Gino Spocchia,Rachel Sharp
Saturday 21 May 2022 18:26 BST
Relative of Buffalo shooting victim shouts ‘coward’ at Payton Gendron in court

The youngest victim of the Buffalo supermarket mass shooting has been laid to rest, one week after a self-proclaimed white supremacist shot and killed 10 Black people and injured three other victims.

Mourners gathered for the funeral of Roberta Drury at the Assumption Church in Syracuse on Saturday morning to remember the “big-hearted” 32-year-old who had moved to Buffalo, New York, a decade earlier to care for her sick brother.

Family members wore t-shirts with her photo on as they listened to Friar Nicholas Spano describing how “Robbie”, as she was known, had a “smile that could light up a room”.

“She was that light that shone through whatever darkness might have been present,” he said.

Ms Drury, who grew up in nearby Cicero, was described as somebody who “couldn’t walk a few steps without meeting a new friend” in her obituary.

The 32-year-old was the first victim killed in last Saturday’s massacre.

She had told a friend that she was going to walk to the Tops Friendly Market that day to pick up a few groceries.

Ms Drury is the second victim of America’s worst mass shooting this year to be laid to rest, after a private funeral was held on Friday for 67-year-old local church leader Heyward Patterson.

With Saturday marking one week on from the attack, a moment of silence will be held at Tops stores at 2.30pm on Saturday – the approximate time it took place.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has called for 123 seconds of silence from 2.28pm to 2.31pm followed by the ringing of church bells 13 times throughout the city to honor the 13 victims.

A candlelight vigil will also be held at the Tops supermarket on Saturday evening.

Enrique Owens, a cousin of Roberta Drury, wears a t-shirt remembering her
Enrique Owens, a cousin of Roberta Drury, wears a t-shirt remembering her (AP)

Five more funerals are scheduled for victims throughout the coming week, with civil rights activist group National Action Network reportedly planning to cover funeral expenses for all those killed.

Community leaders and victims’ families gathered on Thursday night to plead for justice for their loved ones, with civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Al Sharpton in attendance.

“We need to hold all that have aided and abetted the hate in this country accountable,” Mr Sharpton said at the news conference outside Buffalo’s Antioch Baptist Church.

Earlier that day, Mr Gendron appeared in court where he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first degree murder and the families of victims heckled him as a “coward”.

The alleged shooter has pleaded not guilty and is due to return to court on 9 June.

The 18-year-old is accused of carrying out an act of “pure evil” after he allegedly livestreamed his racist attack on innocent shoppers in the predominantly Black community.

Mr Gendron is accused of driving around three hours from his home in Conklin to the Tops Friendly Market grocery store dressed in tactical gear and armed with an assault rifle last Saturday afternoon.

The casket of Roberta Drury being brought into the church at her funeral
The casket of Roberta Drury being brought into the church at her funeral (Getty Images)

The gunman then opened fire outside the store first before moving through the supermarket aisles where he shot 13 people in total, killing 10.

Mr Gendron was taken into custody at the scene and made “disturbing statements” about his motive, making clear that he was “filled with hate toward the Black community” and was targeting Black people, according to officials.

The firearm used in the attack had the n-word written on it and the number 14 – an apparent reference to a conspiracy theory.

According to an online manifesto which appears to have been posted by the gunman, Mr Gendron called himself a racist, white supremacist and antisemite and detailed how he had been inspired by other white supremacist mass shooters.

He also cited the debunked “great replacement theory” which has repeatedly been spouted by right-wing personalities such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson – an extremist conspiracy theory that falsely claims there is a plot to diminish the influence of white people.

A mourner outside the church where Roberta Drury’s funeral was held
A mourner outside the church where Roberta Drury’s funeral was held (AP)

Officials have since said that the gunman planned to continue the mass shooting at at least one other location in the community.

Questions are also mounting over how he was able to access a firearm after it emerged that he previously threatened to carry out a mass shooting at his school.

More charges are expected to be filed against Mr Gendron by the state and the US Department of Justice is also investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism and terrorism.

If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces New York’s maximium penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If charged and convicted of federal charges, he could face the death penalty.

He is currently being held on suicide watch and without bail in the custody of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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