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1st funeral for mass shooting victims today, as families seek justice

Rev. Al Sharpton (left) and Attorney Ben Crump (right) console family grieving members.
The Patterson Family via WGRZ-TV
Rev. Al Sharpton (left) and Attorney Ben Crump (right) console family grieving members Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Antioch Baptist Church in Buffalo.

As the first funeral takes place Friday for a victim of the Tops market massacre on Saturday, some family members gathered with their lawyers Thursday on the steps of Antioch Baptist Church.

This wasn't the usual survivor of some event saying the families were looking for their day in court. Instead, they see the accused 18-year-old gunman as a white self-proclaimed racist who killed the 10 victims because they were Black.

Heyward Patterson, wearing a tan-checked suit, beige tie and pocket square, off-white shirt and black skull cap.
Heyward Patterson, 67, was one of the 10 people killed during Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo. His funeral will be held Friday, May 20, 2022.
 Tirzah Patterson (left), wearing a flowered dress, speaks at media microphones, as her son Jacques, wearing a gray t-shirt, covers his face with his hands and people stand behind them.
Mike Desmond
Tirzah Patterson laments the effect on her 12-year-old son Jacques of losing his father and her ex-husband Heyward Patterson.

Tirzah Patterson lamented the effect on her 12-year-old son Jacques of losing his father and her ex-husband Heyward.

"He will grow up fatherless. He has to live, even after this. And I have to pray that God gives me strength to raise him the best of my ability," Patterson said. "He is the youngest son. Deacon Patterson did have two older daughters, but this is his only son."

Heyward Patterson, 67, was a driver and church volunteer. His funeral begins Friday at 11 a.m. at the Thomas T. Edwards Funeral Home on Genesee Street in Buffalo. No media will be allowed.

Robin Harris lost her mother, Ruth Whitfield.

"We were supposed to go see the Temptations play that night," she sobbed. "I have the tickets still on my table. How dare you? Murderer!"

Marcus Talley lost his mother Geraldine Talley. Holding up a photo of his mother, Talley blasted the young man who is charged with the murders.

"People claim that gun laws are too strict or we're trying to tread on their rights to buy guns," Talley said. "It's just sad and depressing, and my mom chose to be a victim of this because somebody woke up, decided they didn't like Black people and shot a hollow point bullet right here."

Lawyers led by national Civil Rights lawyer Ben Crump and local attorney Terry Connors say they will likely be suing a lot of people who they will argue either had something to do with the murders or could have stopped what happened and didn't.

There has been a lot of money raised to help the families. Rev. Al Sharpton said his National Action Network will make sure the families can bury their loved ones.

Later in the evening, Sharpton delivered a fiery speech inside Antioch Baptist Church o Fillmore Avenue, calling for social change and whatever is needed to stop murders of Black people by racist white people, like the alleged killer in this case.

Rev. Al Sharpton Speaks on Buffalo's Mass Shooting

Full pews inside the Antioch Baptist Church in Buffalo.
Mike Desmond
It was a full house at the Antioch Baptist Church in Buffalo Thursday, May 19, 2022 to hear Rev. Al Sharpton speak about the city's mass shooting.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.