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Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP president pleads for change after losing relative in Buffalo shooting

Authorities said the racially motivated attack killed 10 people, including Ruth Whitfield, on May 14. She's the cousin of Corine Mack by marriage.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The deadly shooting from May 14 in Buffalo that killed 10 people at a supermarket in a predominately Black neighborhood continues to be felt across the country.

The 18-year-old gunman who authorities say killed the victims in New York had previously threatened a shooting at his high school and was sent for mental health treatment. 

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Payton Gendron had appeared on the radar of police last year after he threatened to carry out a shooting around the time of graduation. Officials also say the gunman had researched the local demographics and arrived in the area a day in advance to conduct reconnaissance with the “express purpose” of killing as many Black people as possible. He's been arraigned on a murder charge.

Corine Mack, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County NAACP president, told WCNC Charlotte she was originally angry when she first heard about the news. The anger turned to hurt once she found out one of her relatives, Ruth Whitfield, 86, was among the 10 victims that died. She is Mack's cousin through marriage. 

Credit: Corine Mack
Ruth Whitfield, 86, was among the 10 victims from the Buffalo shooting on May 14.

"She simply went to the grocery store to get some groceries and never came home," Mack said.

Mack mentioned Ruth's son, Garnell Whitfield Jr., went to the grocery store because he knew his mother was there and he was concerned about her safety when he discovered she passed away. 

"Ruth Whitfield was a woman of God," Mack explained. "A sweet, spirited woman who loved her children. She raised four beautiful children who'll miss her. She's a woman who went to the nursing home every day to make sure her husband was fed well and taken care of well." 

RELATED: Buffalo shooter targeted Black neighborhood, officials say

Federal authorities were still working to confirm the authenticity of a racist 180-page manifesto that detailed the plot and identified Gendron by name as the gunman. A preliminary investigation found Gendron had repeatedly visited sites espousing white supremacist ideologies and race-based conspiracy theories and extensively researched the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the man who killed dozens at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, the law enforcement official told AP.

"We're talking about human beings who simply were doing what you would normally do on any given day of the week. They weren't a threat to anybody. But their Black skin was a threat to this 18-year-old White male," Mack said. "What is it about my skin that threatens White society?"

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"When was there another mature White adult stepping in to dispel all of these lies, to dispel all these untruths," Mack continued about what allegedly led Gendron to shoot up the neighborhood. "When was that going to happen? How do we turn this around if White people, who are good, caring citizens, don't step in and say something?" 

RELATED: 'Pure evil:' 10 killed in Buffalo, NY shooting labeled as hate crime

Mack added the local NAACP chapter is looking at establishing a truth and reconciliation commission to address racism.

Anyone looking to get involved with the local chapter of the NAACP can visit the agency's website for more information.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are expected to travel to Buffalo on Tuesday, May 17, to remember the lives lost from the shooting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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