After a shooting at the new Sun Fresh Market, elected officials, clergy, businessmen, activists and neighbors assembled inside this week to stand in solidarity and defiance.
“We’re going to keep pushing,” said John Lipari, the grocery store’s owner, speaking this week less than 10 feet from the shattered, bullet-riddled entry doors. “We’re going to make this work, not only for the people around this community but the people of this city who have come and shopped at this store.”
The afternoon rally was scheduled by Jermaine Reed, the city councilman who represents the area and helped spearhead the $17 million store in the Linwood Shopping Center, 31st Street and Wabash Avenue.
The Sun Fresh held its grand opening less than three months ago and was billed by the city — and received by the community — as a symbol of revitalization along the Prospect Avenue corridor.
On Monday afternoon — Labor Day — two shooters entered the store and shot a man and a 15-year-old female employee, store workers say. Kansas City police say the man was the target and was shot multiple times. The teen girl, an innocent bystander, was shot in the leg once.
The grocery store employs two security firms, and guards were present inside and outside during the shooting, store workers say. Normally the inside guard is armed, but on Monday that guard was a new hire who had not yet been issued a weapon and was unarmed.
At the rally, Don Maxwell, an Eastside developer who oversaw the shopping center’s revitalization, said he and the store’s owners have been discussing “immediate adjustments” to security, but he could not offer specifics.
“We have adequate security now,” Maxwell said. “But if someone walks in a door and looks at someone and shoots them, there is nothing here that could have prevented that, probably.”
Some at the rally called for more gun control on the state and national level. But, as with almost all gun violence in urban areas, guns are not owned lawfully and gun control laws would not affect those who obtain them illegally.
Despite the holiday’s chaos, however, store owners, city officials and neighborhood shoppers say support for Sun Fresh remains strong.
“Hearing about the shooting put me in a bad place,” one shopper named Vanessa told The Star. She asked that her last name not be used. “We have one or two people who come in and try to destroy everything for us. The community needs this place.”
Juanita Steele, 83, has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 60 years. “I’m going to keep coming,” she said. “It’s important that people speak up and speak out in moments like this.”
The city invested about $17 million, including land acquisition, to build the new store, renovate the end wings of the retail center and to rebuild the parking lot.
John Wood, the assistant city manager and director who helped oversee the development, arrived on the scene Tuesday morning expecting chaos.
“I’m wondering where is the police, where’s the tape?” he said. “But I get here and people are acting as if nothing has happened. The resilience, it surprised me.”
As she grabbed a shopping basket, Vanessa scoffed at the idea that Monday’s shooting could scare her away from her new neighborhood grocer.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “This is my community. I’m not going nowhere.”