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The New York supermarket where a White gunman allegedly killed 10 Black people in May reopened Friday morning.
On Thursday, Buffalo’s Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue held a moment of silence and prayer to recognize the two-month anniversary of the horrific shooting.
The store, which has doubled as a gathering spot for two decades, has been fully renovated.
Just over three-quarters of its employees have returned.
Opinion remains divided over whether the reopening came too soon after the tragedy.
Tops President John Persons said Thursday that the company started to hear from people the day after the shooting and that management ultimately felt confident most area residents and store associates needed and wanted the store to reopen.
“I’ll be honest, those are the people that we really wanted to listen to, the people that were in the neighborhood, the people that were in the Jefferson Avenue neighborhood and the immediate community to find out what their thoughts were,” Persons said.
Persons said that everything was “taken down to the bare walls,” with new equipment and “fresh product.”
A new emergency evacuation alarm system and additional emergency exits were installed, and the parking lot and perimeter have new LED lighting.
Water fountains appeared next to a memorial, and Tops said it is working with state, city and community leaders to create a permanent public memorial outside the store.
However, some residents outside the store on Thursday were angry, telling The Associated Press their voices had not been heard.
While residents had previously fought for a grocery store on the city’s eastern side, several residents reportedly pointed out that renovating the site of a massacre is not the same as addressing systemic inequality and trauma in east Buffalo’s Black community.
Mark Talley, the 33-year-old son of Buffalo shooting victim Geraldine Talley, said he initially wanted Tops to be closed and dedicated to all the loved ones who were killed.
“But if you do that, then you just succumb to defeat,” he said. “I don’t want the east side of Buffalo to seem weak. I want us to become stronger than that. Let’s just build it back up.”
On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted the alleged shooter, Payton Gendron, on counts that included federal hate crime charges punishable by the death penalty. Federal charges were first announced last month, and Gendron has pleaded not guilty in state and federal cases.
According to investigators, Gendron, who turned 19 since the shootings, had been motivated by White supremacist beliefs and had been planning the attack for months.
“The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that White supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday. “We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.”
Garland will determine at a later date whether to seek the death penalty.
Fox News’ Paul Best and The Associated Press contributed to this report.