More than 200 mourners walked through a drizzling rain Friday morning to attend Antioch Baptist Church for the funeral of Andre Mackniel, one of 10 people killed by a white supremacist May 14 at the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue.
Mackniel, 53, of Auburn, the father of four daughters and one son, was shot while shopping for a birthday cake for 3-year-old son Andre Jr.
Family members requested the funeral be closed to the media. Outside the church, Frachione Cook expressed sadness at losing his cousin to a senseless act of violence.
“Andre was a very educated man, he was sweet and he loved his family,” Cook said. “It’s just sad, that’s what it is. It happened to the best, and I feel bad for the people who had their tragedy in Texas, too. It’s a sad thing that’s happening in America.”
Vyonne Elliott, who delivered the eulogy, told The Citizen in Auburn that he and his older brother Andre grew up “churchgoing children” on the East Side. They and their younger brother, the late James Elliott, attended Bible studies, dances and other church events, making Andre’s death and the reasons for it even harder to fathom.
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“We weren’t raised that way,” Elliott said. “We liked people for who they were, the person that they are. What was in them. Not because of their skin color.”
Elliott recounted the time they were playing a pickup football game in the rain when he was 14 and running with the ball. Elliott slipped and tore a 4-inch gash into his left knee and his big brother wrapped his bloody knee in his letterman jacket and carried him on his back for four blocks to their Buffalo home.
Mackniel took his mother’s last name because his father, a Marine, was on duty at the time of the delivery, Elliott said, noting the birth certificate wasn’t changed, and that his brother would sometimes go by his father’s surname.
“He had the biggest smile in the world,” Elliott said. “He could walk into a room and light it up.”
Mackniel graduated from South Park High School, where his 6-foot-3 frame served him well on the school’s basketball team.
He had jobs as a cook and played and coached basketball in summer leagues, Elliott told The Citizen. His brother also enjoyed playing guitar and writing poetry, he said.
Mackniel was engaged to Tracey Maciulewicz. They are Andre Jr.’s parents.
“When his brother eulogized Andre, he talked about how loving he was and how caring he was, and how protective he was as well,” said Ulysees O. Wingo Sr., the senior pastor at Antioch who is also a Buffalo Common Council member representing the Masten District.
“What we learned about Andre today is that he was family oriented,” said Wingo, who officiated Friday’s service. “He loved his children, he loved his family and was engaged to be married. We learned he and his brothers were very close, and even with his cousins they had brother-like relationships.”
Wingo said Mackniel’s family rose to the occasion Friday under impossibly trying circumstances.
“His daughters, his brother and his cousin did a great job in sending him home dignified,” Wingo said. “That was a great service – a lot of heartbreak, a lot of lamenting, but I am very proud of them.”
Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He’s also a former arts editor at The News.