Garnell Whitfield Jr., former Buffalo fire commissioner and son of shooting victim Ruth Whitfield, said Monday that their father, Garnell Whitfield Sr., still does not know that his wife has died.
Whitfield Jr., speaking alongside his family members at a news conference with their attorneys on Monday, said that his father has been living in a nursing home for the past eight years and that his 86-year-old mother, Ruth, visited him every single day. They were married for 68 years.
“My mom got up that morning and she went … up to the nursing home to care for the love of her life, my father. Sixty-eight years, they’re married. He’s in that nursing home for the last eight years. And every day, she went there to care for him, to make sure that he had a quality of life, to do what nobody else could do for him,” Whitfield Jr. said. “She left there, to get groceries on the way home, and she encountered this evil, hateful…she didn’t deserve that. She didn’t deserve that. Nobody deserves that.”
Whitfield Jr. said he and his family members are struggling to figure out how to tell their father that their mother died at the hands of a White supremacist.
“He doesn’t know. What do we tell him? How do we tell him the love of his life, his primary caretaker, the person who kept him alive for the last eight years, how do we tell him that she’s gone? Not just that she’s gone, but she’s gone at the hands of a White supremacist, of a terrorist, of an evil person, who’s allowed to live among us?” Whitfield Jr. said.
Whitfield Jr. also expressed his anger at the situation, calling out elected officials for their lack of protection.
“We make no apologies for our suffering and our pain — you can see it. We’re not going to apologize for that. But we’re not just hurting. We’re angry, we’re mad. This shouldn’t have happened. We do our best to be good citizens, to be good people. We believe in God. We trust him. We treat people with decency. And love even our enemies,” he said.
“And you expect us to keep doing this over and over and over again…forgive and forget, while the people we elect and trust in offices around this country do their best not to protect us, not to consider us equal, not to love us back. What are we supposed to do with all of this anger, with all of this pain?” Whitfield Jr. asked.
Whitfield was a mother of four children, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother, said family attorney Ben Crump. Two of her daughters, as well as a granddaughter, also spoke Monday about their love for their lost loved one. Raymond Whitfield, a younger son of Ruth and Garnell Sr., echoed his brother’s sentiments and said they were proud of their heritage, despite experiencing unequal treatment.
“How dare you not see us as American? We stand here on the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors, and she [Ruth] taught us to be proud of that fact, okay? She was unapologetically an African American princess,” Raymond Whitfield said, calling his family, “broken-hearted.”
Whitfield Jr. continued by saying that it was a difficult decision for him and is family to speak publicly about their loss, saying they are typically a private family. However, they decided to speak out in order to honor their mother and hopefully contribute to positive change.
“What I remember most about my mom, what I love most about my mom is how she loved us, how she loved our family, unconditionally. How she sacrificed everything for us, how she gave of herself when she had nothing else to give, she willingly did that for us. And for her to be taken from us and taken from this world, by someone that [is] just full of hate, for no reason…is very hard for us to handle right now,” Whitfield Jr. said.
“This is not just some story to drive the news cycle, this is our mother. This is our lives. We need help. We’re asking you to help us…this can’t keep happening,” he continued.
CNN’s Tanika Gray contributed reporting to this post.