Katherine Massey, an advocate for civil rights and education for her local Black community, was one of the 10 people killed Saturday at the Tops Market in Buffalo, New York. She was 72.
The alleged gunman, who also injured three other people, was arrested on the scene and charged with first-degree murder in what authorities have described as a “racially motivated hate crime.”
Massey’s family, who knew her as “Aunt Kat,” said they understood something was amiss after waiting hours by the scene of the shooting, hoping for information about her status.
They admitted they knew Massey was gone, but they didn’t want to believe it could be true, WGRZ 2 reported.
Massey had written for both The Challenger and The Buffalo Criterion, publications geared toward the city’s Black community. In a letter to The Buffalo News almost exactly a year before her death, she expressed concern about “the escalating gun violence in Buffalo and many major U.S. cities.”
Katherine Massey was one of the victims killed in the grocery store shooting in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday. (Photo: Robert Kirkham/The Buffalo News via Associated Press)
“There needs to be extensive federal action/legislation to address all aspects of the issue,” Massey wrote.
“Current pursued remedies mainly inspired by mass killings ― namely, universal background checks and banning assault weapons ― essentially exclude the sources of our city’s gun problems,” she went on. “Illegal handguns, via out of state gun trafficking, are the primary culprits.”
Massey was a member of We Are Women Warriors, a community empowerment group that hosted a forum in February to deliberate over how to mitigate youth violence after an incident at a local high school.
The organization also set up a giveaway of masks and personal protective equipment for Buffalo residents following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Betty Jean Grant, a community activist who met Massey in 2001, said they grew We Are Women Warriors together.
Grant said Massey’s passion for Buffalo and loving spirit motivated her.
“She’s, in a true sense of the word, a warrior,” Grant said, according to WKBW. “She was a woman warrior and she really, really loved that title. She loved working and she loved helping people.”
Massey’s sister, Barbara Massey, told The Buffalo News that Katherine was “a beautiful soul.” Other family members said she was known for her sense of humor, and that she loved art and dancing.
“When he took her life, he just set her free even more,” said Adrienne Massey, Katherine’s niece, according to WGRZ.
Adrienne Massey hopes that people will instill love instead of hate in their children and learn to practice love following this weekend’s tragedy.
“I hope that as a nation, as a community, just people at home, they teach their kids how to love instead of hate, because that’s not what she represented and that’s not what I teach my kids and that’s not how our family [does] things,” she said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.