A local pastor addresses shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
Residents of Buffalo, N.Y., are in shock and are grieving after yesterday's mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Market there. Ten people are dead. Three are wounded. A white man is in custody charged with murder. Authorities say he wore body armor during the attack and that he was motivated by racism. Darius Pridgen is the president of the Buffalo Common Council and senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church, and he joins us now. Bishop Pridgen, thank you, and we're so sorry about what your community is going through.
DARIUS PRIDGEN: Well, thank you. And thank you for bringing attention to this most heinous crime.
RASCOE: What are you hearing from people right now? I'm sure they're not doing well, but how are they holding up?
PRIDGEN: Well, they're not doing well at all. We just left out of our first service in which our governor was here, our state attorney general was here - Chuck Schumer, via Skype, and others. And then what I'm looking at right now on my monitors in my office are people who have lost loved ones, one of the workers from the supermarket who belongs here who was there during the shooting. People are just hurt and rather confused at times about why this shooter would choose a - choose Buffalo, N.Y., and choose a supermarket. So it's one right now of hurt, one of dismay. That's just where we are right now and what we're hearing.
RASCOE: Do you know any of the victims or their families? I heard you say that I guess one of the people that worked at the store may be a member of your church.
PRIDGEN: Yeah. So, yeah, we know several of the victims and their families. One of the victims who survived, a young man - bullet went in his neck and out - his grandfather was actually here this morning, belongs to our church. And so we know in our next services that there will be more people who are attached. And so it is very - a very tight-knit community in which - probably two degrees of separation. So it is a tragedy like we've never seen, I know, in my lifetime here in Buffalo.
RASCOE: The gunman is white. He's 18 years old. He's not from Buffalo. He seems to have livestreamed this attack. And authorities are looking into what motivated him. But the governor is talking about the influence of white nationalist ideology and hate magnified on social media. How do you, as a pastor, make sense of all of this? And what do you tell people who feel like things like this keep happening and that racism in this country is so prevalent at times?
PRIDGEN: Well, you know, to be very honest, I'm not much of a pastor right now. I'm just a boy from Buffalo who is grieving with my brothers and sisters. It is difficult to lead during times like this, but leadership is necessary. And so what I do say when I do have to put on the pastor hat is that there are times that there has to be tragedy for there to be change. There's never been a change in the world, in our country, without there being some form of hurt. And unfortunately, 10 people gave their lives.
But anybody now who says there is not racism in America, anybody who says there are not still - that it's fake news that there are white supremacists who really just want Black people dead - I read a portion of his manifesto. I read and looked at how he mapped out the grocery store. I read how he looked at zip codes and looked for a place of a high concentration of, as he put it, Black people and how he desired to shoot - in his words - to shoot Black people. It's hard to be a pastor - being a pastor, because that's my calling, not because it's my wish right now.
RASCOE: I mean, as a public servant, what would you like to see happen? And we just have a few seconds left.
PRIDGEN: You know, as a public servant right now, you know, I know people are talking about guns and they're talking about this and they're talking about that. Right now, as a public servant, my job is to heal the community and make sure that this community does not divide along racial lines. Because it wasn't white America that walked into that grocery store, it was one American. And may he - may justice be served on that person.
RASCOE: That's Darius Pridgen, president of the Buffalo Common Council. Thank you for joining us.
PRIDGEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.