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1 year later: Buffalo honors the Tops supermarket shooting victims

People hug outside the scene after a shooting at a supermarket on May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Joshua Bessex
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AP
People hug outside the scene after a shooting at a supermarket on May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.

The city of Buffalo took the weekend to honor the 10 lives lost during the massacre at a supermarket one year ago.

On May 14, 2022, a white supremacist attacked the Jefferson Street Tops supermarket in East Buffalo, a predominantly Black neighborhood, killing 10 people and injuring three, almost all of whom were Black.

Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackneil, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young and Ruth Whitfield were killed.

On Sunday, the city held a remembrance service in front of the Tops grocery store, reopened after the shooting, with a moment of silence at 2:28 p.m. ET, the time the attack began.

"[The gunman] took 10 lives, 10 precious lives, and injured three others and left an entire city traumatized and grieving," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said in a speech during the service. He noted in the days, weeks and months since the shooting the community of East Buffalo and Western New York have come together.

Throughout the weekend, a reflective light display was shown on the Buffalo City Hall columns as part of a tribute to the 10 victims killed, according to Brown's office. The surviving family members chose the colors that best represented their loved ones.

Additionally, all flags at state buildings were flown at half-staff and state landmarks were lit orange on Sunday in honor of the victims.

Work continues with the city's May 14th Memorial Commission to construct a memorial. Public meetings on the effort are set to be held next month.

Brown said this past week of this effort, "It is important that while we look back and reflect on what happened, we continue to look forward on how to help our community heal and how to make the necessary change to overcome the historic inequities in East Buffalo."

Many of the city still struggle in the wake of the shooting

For many in the community, the trauma from the attack lingers.

Na'Kya McCann, host of the podcast Embedded: Buffalo Extreme,spoke to Weekend Edition about the lasting impacts of the shooting, especially for the area's youth.

A year ago, McCann was working at a cheerleading gym in the city called Buffalo All-Star Extreme, or BASE.

The grocery store "is literally right in the center of the community, it's right in the center of the East side of Buffalo," McCann said.

"It was supposed to be a good day like, you know, full of excitement because we're walking into a new season. And instead we walked into a nightmare, which was a massacre in our city," she said.

"And after the massacre, it really puts things in perspective that I can't live. Because of my skin color. I can't live freely because of the way that I look in the color of my skin," she said.

McCann said that she doesn't go into the reopened Tops store or even ride by the site.

She said East Buffalo residents are split. "Some people are like, you know, we just have to move on. And then it's the other 50%, which are essentially the families. This still hurts, and this is still a big impact. And I'm still living through grief and through depression," she said.

McCann has seen how the kids of the area are still affected.

"After the massacre, kids have acted out. Some have probably stopped going to school, we have kids that have dropped out of BASE because of it," she said. "We have kids that they get jumpy when people talk about certain things or say certain things or hear certain sounds. And that shouldn't be. No child should feel that way."

People participating in a March For Our Lives event pause at a memorial to the dead at Tops supermarket on June 11, 2022.
Matt Burkhartt / Getty Images
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Getty Images
People participating in a March For Our Lives event pause at a memorial to the dead at Tops supermarket on June 11, 2022.

The 1st anniversary comes as the federal case is unresolved

The gunman, Payton Gendron, was sentenced to life in prisonwithout the possibility of parole in February.

Proceedings for his federal charges are still pending after he pleaded not guiltyto 27 charges,including several counts of hate crimes resulting in death.

Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against gun accessory manufacturer Mean Arms, the company that made the piece that made it easy for Gendron to modify and make his AR-15 rifle deadlier.

A day later, family members of three of the victims filed a separate wrongful death lawsuit in the State of New York Supreme Court against several social media sites including Facebook, Snapchat, Discord and Reddit. The case alleges that Gendron was radicalized by the algorithms behind the social media products he used that fed him racist, antisemitic and violent content.

The lawsuit is being filed by one of the survivors of the attack, Latisha Rogers, and the family members of Mackneil, Massey and Patterson.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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