Buffalo one month later: When will Tops reopen? How will victims be compensated?
One month after a gunman entered the Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo's East Side and began shooting, the store's owner has set a path to reopening this summer, and a compensation fund for victims' families has been drafted.
Both involve speed: The reopening date ensures that East Side residents won't have to wait what could have been years to rebuild a grocery store. And the compensation fund sets a rapid timeline — with just one month between the opening of applications and the deadline — a timeframe that could deliver payments by late October.
When will Tops on Jefferson Avenue reopen?
The site of the May 14 shooting — a Tops store that is part community center and part neighborhood hub in the predominantly Black area of Buffalo's East Side — has been closed ever since. A shuttle bus gets shoppers to the nearest alternative, 4 miles away.
Investigators pored over the store in the weeks after the shooting and only recently concluded their work documenting the crime scene. That gave way to painters and carpenters, who are refurbishing the store for its reopening.
Tops President John Persons told The Buffalo News last week that rebuilding the store — which opened in 2003 after years of campaigning by local officials — would have taken years.
The better option, he said, was to restore the store and reopen by the end of July, commandeering materials for planned upgrades at other Tops locations for the Jefferson Avenue rebuild.
"We really believe that the best option for us to be able to service that community again and do it successfully is by us reopening that store," Persons told the News.
The store will have new floors, registers and an updated decor, he said. The store will also have something else.
"We want to try to have some sort of respectful memorial by the time we open, but given the timeframe, some of these elements will likely take considerably longer," Persons told the News.
Who will be compensated for Buffalo shooting?
Meanwhile, The National Compassion Fund — part of the National Center for Victims of Crime — issued a draft protocol for how victims will be compensated, and the deadlines for applications to the Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund.
People will have to act fast to be compensated, with just one month between the opening of applications and the deadline.
The fund will be administered by a local steering committee, which will decide who is eligible and how funds are distributed.
How much money will be available in the fund — gathered from businesses, foundations and individual donors — won't be known until the donation-cutoff date on Sept. 20. Shortly thereafter, a final review will be done and payments will be made.
There are five categories for compensation:
- Heirs of those killed in the shooting;
- Those injured by a gunshot wound in the shooting;
- Those who suffered another physical injury in the shooting;
- Those present at the Tops during the shooting who suffered psychological trauma;
- Tops employees who were not present during the shooting.
To be considered "present" at the Tops, a person will have to prove they were in the "area of eligibility," basically east of Jefferson Avenue, between Landon and Riley streets, west to just behind the market.
The proposal is still in draft form. When it is finalized, an online application will be available.
Heirs of the 10 victims killed in the shooting will receive the highest level of payment, but payments will also go to those in the other four categories.
When can I apply for compensation for the Buffalo shooting?
According to the draft protocol, there will be a Town Hall Meeting to give feedback on the plan at 6 p.m. July 21 at City Honors School.
There appears to be a discrepancy in the draft protocol, which was issued June 13. On page 3, it specifies that "all applications must be submitted online no later than Aug. 16, 2022, to be able to receive payment."
The fine print on page 5 and elsewhere, however, reads: "All applications must be submitted by the deadline of Sept. 14, 2022."
Elsewhere in the document, it states that the online application will be available "around Aug. 16, 2022."
To get on the fund's contact list, and learn when the protocol is final, when the application is available and when the deadline is approaching, go to www.nationalcompassion.org/buffalo. The fund is also reachable at Buffalo@NationalCompassion.org
Key dates for the Buffalo compensation fund
June 13: Draft protocol issued.
July 21: Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m., at City Honors School.
July 23: Steering committee approves final protocol.
Aug. 16: Application available online.
Sept. 14: Deadline for submission of applications.
Sept. 20: Fund closes to donations.
Oct. 19: Steering committee approves distribution plan
Oct. 24: Payments begin, on a rolling bass.
Read the Draft Protocol for Buffalo shooting compensation fund
Accused Buffalo gunman Payton Gendron in court
Meanwhile, Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old white man accused of targeting the Tops because of its location on Buffalo's predominantly Black East Side, is still being held without bail in Erie County Jail.
Listed as Inmate 157103, he has made three court appearances.
A grand jury indicted the Conklin, New York, native on May 19. He faces one count of domestic terrorism, 10 counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime, one count of illegal possession of a weapon, and three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime.
He was arraigned on those charges on June 9 and pleaded not guilty.
He also appeared in court on May 25, when his defense attorneys sought and received a gag order prohibiting comment from all parties to the case.
As a shackled Gendron was led from the courtroom after his arraignment, one person yelled, "Payton, you're a coward," according to reports.
The alleged gunman is also expected to face federal hate-crime charges. His digital footprint includes a long racist screed and a message board where he posted anti-Semitic and racist diatribes before traveling more than 200 miles to Buffalo.
Staff writer Gary Craig contributed to this report.
Reach Peter D. Kramer, a 34-year staffer, at email@example.com or on Twitter at @PeterKramer. Read his latest stories. Local reporting like Pete's only works if subscribers support it, which you can do at www.lohud.com/subscribe.