BUFFALO, NY (NewsNation) — Rev. Mark Blue said the Buffalo supermarket where at least 10 people were shot and killed this weekend was a “pillar in our community” and saved the area from becoming a food desert.
At least 10 people were killed and multiple injured after a gunman wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera entered a Tops Friendly Market with a rifle and opened fire, authorities said. Shoppers and a retired police officer were among the dead. Blue said the supermarket represented progress in the community.
“This is the only grocery store in a three- to five-mile radius. We were in a food desert and I would like to say a food apartheid. This is an area of gathering place for all of that of all of our community in Jefferson,” Blue said.
This comes amid authorities saying the white gunman researched the local demographics and arrived in the area a day in advance to conduct reconnaissance with the “express purpose” of killing as many Black people as possible.
“This individual came here with the express purpose of taking as many Black lives as he possibly could,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference Sunday.
The Buffalo-Niagara Falls area was the nation’s sixth most segregated metro area according to a 2010 University of Michigan study.
People of color have a two-thirds chance of living in a high-poverty neighborhood, compared with white people, who have about a 14% chance, according to Sam Magavern, senior policy fellow at the Partnership for the Public Good.
“It might be due to the declining population in this region, it might be due to a very strong neighborhood pattern of where people live, but we haven’t done a good job. In fact, Black/white segregation is actually getting worse here rather than better recently, which is a very sobering statistic,” Magavern told NewsNation affiliate WIVB.
Blue told NewsNation that the mass shooting could greatly impact the food situation in the community.
“We need to make sure that some type of food assistance is given. The Tops officials have pledged to have tractor-trailers to have food there, they have pledged to have Uber and Lyft there to make sure that this tragedy and this loss of food in our community is being recovered properly,” Blue said on “Morning in America.” “So many attempts are being made to help in those areas but it’s still not enough. We still need more support in our communities.”
Bishop Perry Davis, the founder of the Stop Violence Foundation in Buffalo, said on NewsNation “Prime” that this shooting was a “shock” to the community.
Davis said the fact police believe the crime was racially motivated won’t change the way the deaths impact families. He is asking the community to stay calm so the situation does not escalate.
“To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re Black or white, if you’re killing people, that’s a loss,” Davis said. “People are losing people and it’s going to hurt just the same. It don’t matter what color the person is that did it, it’s still going to hurt.”
Buffalo is a “resilient” city he said. An incident like this will bring the community closer together, he believes.
“We need to spend that money in our communities to make sure that the disproportionate those who have been overlooked are being taken care of,” Blue said. “These victims, they were normal people or they are normal people doing normal activities. No one, I repeat, no one went to that grocery store with the intent of not coming back home to their families.”
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.