Payton S. Gendron had a heart filled with hate, and on May 14, 2022, he chose to indict the ultimate act of violence against unsuspecting shoppers at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, NY. The Tops supermarket Payton targeted that late spring day was in a predominantly African American neighborhood. As Payton entered Tops that afternoon, he was dressed in body armor, wearing a video camera on his helmet and carrying an assault rifle. By the end of Payton’s violent assault on the customers at Tops, he left ten people dead.
Roberta Drury was the first victim – and there are a few different back-stories on how she came to be at Tops Supermarket the day she was killed. Was she shopping for herself or shopping for other people? Was she actually ”helping” anyone that day? And so, for example, did Roberta go to the store to get food for her Caucasian brother Christopher – who’d said he’d been diagnosed with leukemia and relied on Roberta to assist him with chores and shopping? Or, on the other hand, had she been “helping” Dezzelynn McDuffie, the African American woman who claimed Roberta called her ‘mother’ and said she had been shopping for her. Or was it like what the unnamed witness said, another of Drury’s friends, that Roberta just went to get something to eat that day as she always does?
But Roberta is also described as someone who had her own life, her own boyfriend, and her own home. That she had grown up in Syracuse, New York, and moved to Buffalo ten years ago to be by her brother’s side as he fought his cancer diagnosis. However, it is difficult to say definitively if she was mixed race. There were just the comments her adoptive Caucasian sister Amanda made, and who may be one of the owners of the “Dalmatia” Hotel Restaurant, and where, there is a doorman named “Wolfman,” who’d stated that “[Roberta’s] vibrancy set a tone.” And where there was a message on the restaurant’s Facebook page calling her a “bright light in the world.” And which is where Roberta sometimes ‘helped’ by delivering food. Amanda Drury, who referred to Roberta by a man’s name “Robbie,” also said of her sister that ‘she was the type of person who would talk to anyone.’ And that ‘anywhere Robbie went, she came home with a friend.’ If say, Roberta’s race had been some type of phenomenon in that neighborhood, it could have made her a target for the shooter, who had been running reconnaissance in the area for several days prior to the shooting. Hopefully, that was not the case.
When Christopher initially saw the news of the attack at the Tops supermarket, he didn’t think Roberta had gone food shopping that day, and because of that, he wasn’t concerned for her safety. Later in the day, though, Christopher began receiving phone calls from Roberta’s friends saying Roberta had told them she did have plans to go food shopping on the afternoon of May 14.
On May 14, Roberta walked to the Tops grocery store on Jefferson Avenue, the same store Payton planned on taking out his hate-filled anger that same day. As Roberta exited the store, the gunman shot Roberta in the head, killing her instantly. While in the parking lot, the shooter shot two more people dead. Roberta’s boyfriend, Tramane Brice, who viewed the horrific clip of Roberta’s death, claims she was the first victim of the gunman, having witnessed it on the video. It is not clear at this time how Tramane or Dezzelynn McDuffie, happened upon the video showing Payton shooting Roberta in the grocery store parking lot (Assuming she ever made it inside) since it was reportedly only available to view for a total of two minutes.
The gunman drove over two hundred miles to the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Ave in Buffalo. Before beginning his brutal killing spree, he wrote a racial slur on his firearm. Later, investigators would find a manifesto written by the killer stating he was willing to kill anyone who looked different from him.
Mourners held a funeral service for Roberta on May 21, 2022. Friends, families, and strangers packed into the Assumption Church in Syracuse to honor the mass shooting’s youngest murder victim. The service held to honor Roberta’s life was the second funeral for a victim of the supermarket shooting. Eleven more funeral services would follow.
Written by: Molly Robichaux