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Buffalo families begin funerals for mass shooting victims

BUFFALO, NY (AP) — The first of several funerals for 10 black people who were massacred at a Buffalo supermarket was scheduled for Friday, a day after families of the victims called on the nation to address the threat of white supremacist violence.

A private service was scheduled for Friday morning for Heyward Patterson, who was a beloved deacon at a church not far from Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo’s black community. The family has requested that the funeral service be closed to the press.

Patterson, 67, offered an informal taxi service to help people get home from the market with their bags of groceries. Pastor Russell Bell of State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ said Patterson had been helping someone shop when he was shot and killed on Saturday.

Tirzah Patterson, the deacon’s ex-wife and mother of their 12-year-old son, described Heyward Patterson as a good father. “He took care of him. Everything he asked for, he got,” she said at a press conference Thursday with civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton and Ben Crump family attorney.

Jaques “Jake” Patterson, the deacon’s son, opened up about his grief at the press conference, covering his face with his hands as his mother spoke. Once she was done, Jake collapsed into Sharpton’s arms and cried silently, using his T-shirt to wipe away his tears.

“His heart is broken,” Jake’s mother said, adding that her son was having trouble sleeping and eating.

“As a mother, what am I supposed to do to help her through this?” she says.

A wake was also scheduled to begin Friday afternoon for Roberta Drury, the youngest of those killed at the Buffalo market. The 32-year-old had walked to Tops to get groceries, said her mother, Dezzelynn McDuffie, who Drury had recently returned home to live with.

Drury’s funeral will be held Saturday at Assumption Church in Syracuse, about 245 kilometers east of Buffalo. His family also asked that the service be closed to the press.

Funerals for five other Buffalo shooting victims were scheduled throughout next week.

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