IMPORTANT: It's a Serious Matter of Life

Buffalo families begin to eulogize victims of racist attack

APTOPIX Buffalo Supermarket Shooting
A person visits a makeshift memorial near the scene of Saturday's shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, Thursday, May 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — 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 Friday morning for Heyward Patterson, who was a beloved deacon at a church not far from Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo's Black community. The family requested that the funeral service be closed to the press.

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 on Saturday.

Tirzah Patterson, the deacon's ex-wife and mother of their 12-year-old son, described Heyward Patterson as a good father. “He took care of him. Anything he asked for, he got it,” she said in a Thursday press conference with civil rights leader 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 also scheduled to begin Friday afternoon 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 service will be held Saturday at Assumption Church in Syracuse, about 152 miles (245 kilometers) east of Buffalo. Her family has also requested that the service be closed to the press.

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

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