A mother was seen in harrowing footage writhing on the floor after thinking that her eight-year-old daughter and her husband were killed by the white supremacist gunman at a Buffalo supermarket.
Londin Thomas, 8, was at the Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo with her parents on Saturday to buy supplies for a birthday cookout for her mother, Julie Hartwell.
Londin and her father Lamont Thomas told WKBW that her mother was in the meat section while they went to grab ingredients to bake a cake for her as a surprise when shots rang out.
‘We all ran to the back where the milk freezes were at and he was shooting at the milk and the milk was leaking through the metal, but the bullet did not go through the metal,’ Londin recalled. ‘My dad was just trying to hide me.’
In a flash, the supermarket aisles were transformed into a scene of mass murder. Carts lay abandoned. Bodies littered the tile floor. Police radios crackled with calls for help.
Survivors were in shock and disbelief as they stumbled out of the store, with Hartwell among the many who were inconsolable as they realized their loved ones were still inside.
Police said Payton Gendron, 18, wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera, shot a total of 11 black people and two white people in Saturday’s rampage before surrendering to authorities. Ten people were killed in the massacre.
When the shots rang out Saturday afternoon, Londin’s father told WKBW that his first instinct was to grab his daughter and run to the back. They hid in a milk cooler and Thomas kept his hand over her mouth as bullets ripped through the store and gallons of milk exploded around them.
‘They never stopped,’ Thomas said. ‘You just gotta think, I know I’m not in this situation that I thought I’d never be.’
Londin’s mother Julie Hartwell was in the meat section of the store and said she could hear the gunman’s footsteps getting louder and closer. But her only concern was her daughter.
‘My first instinct was dropping down to the floor and crawling on my chest, ‘ she said. ‘Not really trying to put my head up, not really trying to look at anything. I was just trying to get somewhere safe. But at the same time, I’m worried about my daughter.’
Hartwell added that what she saw in the store that day was so gruesome, she can’t get it out of her head.
‘I saw dead bodies—if he’s coming back and walking and just looking at people to see if they’re even moving and if they were moving, he shot them,’ she said.
Once outside of the store, Hartwell was inconsolable when she realized her partner and daughter were still inside.
In new video footage that shows the terror in the shooting’s aftermath, the gunman is seen being cuffed by police.
Bystanders and shoppers are heard crying and yelling for loved ones.
‘Omg, he shot so many people in there,’ one man cries out.