Dominique Calhoun had pulled into the parking lot of a Tops supermarket, about to treat her two daughters to an ice cream, when she suddenly saw screaming people running out of the store.
By the time she went out, 13 people had been shot, 10 of them fatally, after an 18-year-old white gunman opened fire in what police described as a racist attack.
“I could have been literally,” Mrs. Calhoun said. “I’m just in shock. I have never experienced anything like this so close to home.”
Ken Stephens, 68, a member of a local anti-violence group, described a creepy scene. “I came here and there were bodies everywhere,” he said.
News of the shooting quickly spread across the city. Marilyn Hanson, 60, ran to Tops to make sure her daughter, who lived nearby, wasn’t among the victims; she was safe.
Both Mrs. Hanson and her daughter often shop at the store.
“My daughter was so scared because that could have been me in that store,” said Ms. Hanson, adding, “If a black man did this, he’d be dead too,” referring to the gunman vomited and taken into custody.
Daniel Love, 24, was with his wife at his Love Barber Shop near the grocery store when he heard a noise, he said. His wife is from Iraq and immediately recognized the sound of gunshots. He told her to go down, he said. He eventually ran to the parking lot and saw the lifeless body of someone he knew.
Ulysees O. Wingo Sr., a member of the Buffalo Common Council representing a district adjacent to the shooting site, said he also knew of some of the victims. As he spoke, onlookers gathered at the site, with about 100 on a side street. Yellow police tape cordoned off the block around the store and at least two dozen police officers along with several vehicles patrolled the perimeter.
“This is the largest mass shooting to date in the city of Buffalo,” said Mr. wingo. “I don’t think anyone here in the city of Buffalo thought something like this could ever happen, ever happen.”
Mr. Wingo said that most shoppers in the Tops supermarket were black, a reflection of the surrounding neighborhood.
Dorothy Simmons, 64, usually spends part of her Saturdays in Tops, doing errands to prepare for Sunday dinner. “That’s what we do in this community,” says Ms. Simmons, who has lived in East Buffalo all her life. On this Saturday, Mrs. Simmons was working in Amherst when she heard the news. She was crying, she said. “This is our shop – this is our shop,” said Ms. Simmons.
Ms. Simmons, who is black, said the gunman’s ability to surrender was evidence of inequality.
“If that had been my son, it would never have been surrender. We never had a chance to surrender,” Ms. Simmons said. “It would never be like that.”
Dan Higgins contributed from Buffalo, New York.