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Relatives of Buffalo shooting victim break down in tears: ‘This shouldn’t have happened’

ABC News

(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- The relatives of 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, the oldest victim slain in this weekend's mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, were overcome with emotion at a news conference on Monday.

Ruth Whitfield was a loving wife of 68 years, a devoted mother of four children and a beloved grandmother, her family said.

She was among the 10 people, all of whom were Black, who were gunned down in a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. Authorities are calling Saturday's massacre a "racially motivated hate crime."

Through tears and hugs, her family gathered on Monday to speak to reporters alongside attorneys including civil rights attorney Ben Crump. One family member broke down and sobbed multiple times during the news conference.

Ruth Whitfield went to visit her husband every day in the nursing home where he's lived for eight years, one of her sons, Garnell Whitfield, a former Buffalo fire chief, told reporters.

He said he doesn’t know how to tell his father that his primary caretaker is gone.

"There's nothing we can do that’s going to take away the hurt, take away these tears, take away the pain, take away the hole in our hearts. Because part of us is gone," he said. "For her to be taken from us and taken from this world by someone that's just full of hate for no reason … it is very hard for us to handle right now."

He went on, "What I loved most about my mom is how she loved us, how she loved our family unconditionally. How she sacrificed everything for us."

Daughter Robin Whitfield said, "My mom was my best friend. We went fishing together, we went camping together."

To the shooter, she said, "How dare you?"

Daughter Angela called her mother an "86-year-old powerhouse. She was beautiful, she was immaculate and she loved us."

Garnell Whitfield added: "We're not just hurting -- we're angry … this shouldn’t have happened. We do our best to be good citizens … we believe in God, we trust him, we treat people with decency and we love even our enemies."

He called out U.S. leaders for not protecting them and said he's speaking out in hopes of contributing to positive change.

"We need help. We're asking you to help us, help us change this. This can't keep happening," he said.

Garnell Whitfield told ABC News on Sunday that his mother went to the nursing home nearly every day. It was important to her to be "taking care of him, making sure he was well cared for by the staff, washing, ironing his clothes, making sure he was dressed appropriately, making sure his nails were cut and clean and shaved," he said.

Even as her own health began to weaken, Ruth Whitfield still tried to visit her husband each day, taking days off only when she felt too debilitated to make the trip, her son said.

After suffering "a very difficult childhood," Ruth Whitfield "was all about family" when she became a mother, Garnell Whitfield said.

"And she rose above it, and she raised us in spite of all of that, being very poor," he said. "She raised us to be productive men and women."

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