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FBI evidence collection complete at mass shooting site

Tops will work to open the store, which is vital to the neighborhood, but does not have a timeline on the reopening yet.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Thursday, City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced that the evidence collection phase at the Tops grocery store that was the site of Saturday’s mass shooting has been concluded.

The conclusion of the FBI's evidence collection means the store has been released back to Tops. Tops will continue its commitment to open the store.

“Tops understands the role that it plays in the Jefferson community.” Tops President John Persons said. With the store closure, the neighborhood is without a grocery store in walking distance, leaving resident in a food desert.

Persons reiterated a previous statement that there currently is not a timeline on as to when the store will reopen, but that the company is committed to reopening the store in a respectful manner to the employees and community. 

Local FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Belongia said that while the evidence collection portion of the investigation at the store is over, there is still a tedious process ahead of them of looking into the alleged shooter's motives and what happened in his life to make him want to commit such a crime.  

Belongia said the FBI was not ready to comment on the specifics of the evidence that was collected. He did mention that there would be some damage that Tops would have to deal with because the alleged shooter, Peyton Gendron, used a high powered rifle that could penetrate shelves and walls.  

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said that Jefferson Avenue in front of the store would be reopened later that day. Fencing will go up around the parking lot, but the area outside of the store's immediate property will reopen.

"We are going to leave officers here on various sides of the location here for an added comfort," Gramaglia said. "And again for these officers, it's a part of the process of grieving for them as well."

Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said that over the coming days his deputies will be providing the police escorts for the upcoming funerals of the victims. 

Garcia also announced the creation of a behavior threat assessment team that will be comprised of mental health professionals, Erie County Deputies, and education professionals.

"Falling through the cracks is not going to an excuse that we are going to use in the future," Garcia said. 

Garcia reiterated Belongia's sentiment that he would not rest until the alleged shooter is prosecuted, saying "I will not rest until this individual spends the rest of their life in jail, or if the death penalty does get reinstated by the president on the federal level." 

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