Retired police officer who tried to stop Buffalo supermarket shooting praised as a hero

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Officials are praising Aaron Salter, Jr., a security guard who was killed in Tops Friendly Market shooting in Buffalo, for his heroic actions.

According to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, Salter had retired from the Buffalo Police Department who "spent the better part of his life defending the citizens" of the city.

aaron salter jrAaron Salter, Jr.Facebook

"He is a hero," Flynn told Willie Geist on Sunday TODAY.

Officials told NBC News that alleged gunman Payton Gendron approached the store in the early afternoon and opened fire in the parking lot, fatally shooting three people and wounding one before progressing into the store.

Flynn said that because Gendron, 18, was allegedly wearing tactical body armor, he was "not injured" by Salter.

"He is a hero (and) has been a hero for a number of years in this community," Flynn added.

Gendron fatally shot Salter and continued into the store. In total, the Saturday shooting killed ten and left three other people injured. Three other store employees were among the dead, according to NBC News.

Salter's son, Aaron Salter III, told The Daily Beast on Saturday that his father was a hero.

"Today is a shock," he told the publication. "I'm pretty sure he saved some lives today. He's a hero."

In a press conference on Sunday, Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia also praised Salter's response.

"The bravery by the Buffalo police officers ... I just cannot say enough about their actions," said Garcia. "I can’t say enough about our retired fellow colleague, Aaron Salter, who confronted this individual to save the lives of others. May he rest in peace."  

Gendron is in custody after surrendering to police, and pled not guilty to first-degree murder charges in an arraignment Saturday night. Flynn said on TODAY that his office is considering other charges, including for hate crimes and terrorism.

Officials have called the shooting racially motivated, pointing to an apparent manifesto the alleged gunman had shared online. The attack was also livestreamed on Twitch. Flynn said that Gendron was "not on the radar of law enforcement in Buffalo."

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Kerry Breen is a reporter and associate editor for TODAY.com, where she reports on health news, pop culture and more. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from New York University. 

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