Dominique Calhoun had parked in the parking lot of a Tops supermarket, about to offer her two daughters ice cream, when she suddenly saw people running out of the store screaming.
By the time she emerged, 13 people had been shot, 10 fatally, after an 18-year-old white gunman opened fire in what police described as a racist attack.
“It literally could have been me,” Ms Calhoun said. “I’m just in shock. I’ve never had anything like this happen so close to home.
Ken Stephens, 68, a member of a local anti-violence group, described a grisly scene. “I came here and there were bodies everywhere,” he said.
News of the shooting spread quickly throughout the city. Marilyn Hanson, 60, ran to Tops to make sure her daughter, who lived nearby, was not among the victims; she was safe.
Mrs. Hanson and her daughter often shop at the store.
‘My daughter was so scared because it could have been me in that store,’ Ms Hanson said, adding: ‘If a black man had done that he would have died too’, referring to the fact that the shooter had been shot. returned and was taken into custody.
Daniel Love, 24, was in his Love Barber Shop near the supermarket with his wife when he heard a noise, he said. His wife is from Iraq and immediately recognized the sound of gunfire. He told her to come down, he said. He finally ran to the parking lot and saw the lifeless body of someone he knew.
Ulysees O. Wingo Sr., a Buffalo Common Council member who represents a district adjacent to the site of the shooting, said he also knows of victims. As he spoke, onlookers gathered at the site, with around 100 people standing along a side street. A yellow police tape cordoned off the block surrounding the store and at least two dozen police, along with several vehicles, guarded the perimeter.
“This is the largest mass shooting to date in the city of Buffalo,” Wingo said. “I don’t think anyone here in the city of Buffalo ever thought something like this could ever happen, would ever happen.”
Mr Wingo said most shoppers at the Tops supermarket were black, reflecting the surrounding neighborhood.
Dorothy Simmons, 64, usually spends part of her Saturdays at Tops, buying food to prepare for Sunday dinner. “That’s what we do in this community,” said Simmons, who has lived in East Buffalo all her life. This Saturday, Ms. Simmons was at work in Amherst when she heard the news. She cried, she said. “This is our store – this is our store,” Ms Simmons said.
Ms Simmons, who is black, said the fact that the shooter was able to surrender showed a disparity.
“If it had been my son, it would never have been a surrender. We never had the chance to surrender,” Ms Simmons said. “It would never be like this.”
Dan Higgins contributed reporting from Buffalo, New York.