Vice President Kamala Harris will reportedly be in Buffalo this weekend to visit with the families affected by the mass shooting that took place at Tops Friendly Market and killed 10 people.
According to WIVB, Harris is expected to attend the funeral of Ruth Whitfield, which will be presided over by Rev. Al Sharpton. Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff will also be in attendance on the trip, according to the news station.
Harris’ visit follows President Biden’s trip to the Queen City last Tuesday (May 24), which was the first visit by a sitting president since 2013. He spent the time at the shooting’s memorial outside of Tops on Jefferson Avenue and met with families at the Delavan-Grider Community Center.
Amid Harris’ trip to Buffalo, the city’s East Side is still trying to cope with the tragedy. While still grieving, the community is also trying to figure out how to rebuild.
“This isn’t one of those situations where we can just go on with our daily lives,” said Jillian Hanesworth, Buffalo’s first poet laureate and a social justice activist working for the organization Open Buffalo, according to NBC News.
Buffalo’s East Side is 85 percent African American, and with the closing of Tops, the community is struggling to provide itself food, as the closed grocery store is the only one in the area. Hanesworth said Open Buffalo is working to meet people’s immediate needs, “but at this point, it’s life or death for this community. Much has to happen on the other side of this.”
Thomas Beauford, president of the Buffalo Urban League, says the closing of Tops due to the ongoing police investigation of the shooting highlights the food desert East Buffalo has become. He also notes that the Tops on Jefferson “didn’t have the same level of investment” as other stores in Buffalo’s white neighborhoods.
“It was already inferior, but it’s all we had,” Beauford added.
According to the Buffalo Police Department, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, the accused shooter, entered the grocery store on May 14 with a military-style assault rifle and opened fire. Investigators believe it was a racially motivated attack, the Associated Press reports.
Gendron allegedly researched the local demographics and chose that supermarket to kill as many Black people as possible. Gendron shot 11 Black people and two white people during the shooting.
Gendron, whose lawyer entered a not guilty plea for him at an earlier court appearance, didn’t speak. His attorneys later declined to comment. He is being held without bail and is due back in court June 9.
Security guard info: Aaron W. Salter Jr., 55, was a retired Buffalo police officer who was working as a security guard at the supermarket. He died in a gunfire exchange with Gendron. “Today is a shock. I’m pretty sure he saved some lives today. He’s a hero,” his son, Aaron Salter III, told The Daily Beast.
Authorities are investigating the possibility of hate crime and terrorism charges against Gendron, who apparently detailed his plans for the assault and his racist motivation in hundreds of pages of writings he posted online shortly before the shooting.
“We need to hold all that have aided and abetted the hate in this country accountable,” Sharpton said at the news conference outside Buffalo’s Antioch Baptist Church. His National Action Network plans to cover funeral expenses for those killed, according to the The AP.