Third Ward community afraid of similar fate after mass shooting in Buffalo New York

Rosie Nguyen Image
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Houston's Third Ward community reacts to Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo
People living in Third Ward say they fear something like this could happen where they live, which is predominantly a Black neighborhood.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The impact of the mass shooting in the Kingsley neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, is being felt here in the Greater Houston area. People living in Third Ward say they fear something like this could happen where they live, which is also a predominantly Black neighborhood.

On Saturday, an 18-year-old white man donning military gear drove three and a half hours to a predominately Black neighborhood. He opened fire at TOPS Friendly Market, shooting 11 black and two white victims, killing ten of them while live streaming with a camera attached to his helmet.

Investigators say he posted a 180-page manifesto, describing himself as a white supremacist and voicing support for the Great Replacement conspiracy theory.

According to the Associated Press, law enforcement officials said the gunman had researched the local demographics while looking for places with a high concentration of Black people.

The U.S. Census Bureau's 2020 American Community Survey states the grocery store's zip code has a population of 78% Black, the highest percentage of Black citizens in upstate New York.

According to Attorney General Merrick, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism. The gunman has been charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.

The tragedy sent shockwaves across the country amid racial tensions, gun violence, and a spree of hate crimes.

Third Ward resident Betty Robinson volunteers as a social worker for the Shape Community Center.

She says she can't comprehend how someone could do something so evil.

"I was just so shocked because it happened," Robinson said. "You don't know what caused him to do it. I believe he's mentally ill."

Derek Gobert spends part of his time hanging out at the park next to the Shape Community Center. He shares it's a place that makes him feel safe during a time when he feels like the lives of Black people are constantly in danger.

"We're in troubled times right now," Gobert said. "It's sad to say cause we've always been dealing with racial incidents and slavery."

The co-owner of Feast with Beasts Fitness, Chris Caldwell, said that these unthinkable acts of violence put him on edge.

"When you go into unfamiliar places, you always have to be on alert. You have to be alert in your neighborhood now, seeing this type of event," Caldwell said. "You never know when somebody's driving up, who they are or what they want."


Betty Robinson of the Shape Community Center in Third Ward said that she can't comprehend how someone could do something so evil.

A frequent visitor of Caldwell's gym, Evan Charles, shared his thoughts and feelings about the mass shooting with his fellow members earlier this afternoon. As someone who lives in the area, he says it's mentally exhausting to fear for your safety constantly.

"Our communities have always had hardships and been targeted by every type of group," said Charles. "These shootings are happening everywhere, whether it's a school, grocery store, or a church. Where can we go so that we can feel safe? It feels like everyone's got a gun. It's hard to come out of the house and feel like today will be an okay day."

Gobert says it's time to recognize and address that white supremacy and systemic racism are still alive and real. He objects to the notion that the mass shooter may have a mental illness and believes there's a disparity in how white perpetrators are treated by law enforcement.

"He knew what he was doing. He came shooting into a black neighborhood with tactical gear, helmets, and everything. Black folks are tired of that," said Gobert. "If it would've been a Black person that came and did that, they would've killed him right then."

Caldwell says he doesn't want his family to live in fear over the continuing attacks and hate crimes against communities of color. While he doesn't know the solution, he hopes to see more done to deter and prevent events like this from happening again.

"There's no easy fix. There's no quick fix. But what I'd really like to see when things like this happen is that these people be held accountable," he said.

Robinson says she wants to see our country's leaders take these incidents more seriously and implement more proactive policies to prevent them.

"I always think there's more that can be done. I'm not going to say it's not enough. But I think there's more that we can do," Robinson said.

In response, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee made a statement regarding the mass shooting:

"Racism is real, and racism can result in bloodshed and murder, just like what happened in Buffalo. White Supremacists and White Nationalists have projected violence and death on African Americans for generations. The hatred displayed in Buffalo manifests the ever-present undercurrent of violence directed at African Americans by those who hold extreme racist views.
White Supremacists and White Nationalists are documented as posing the greatest domestic terrorism threat. "One of the major cures for America is enacting H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act so that the nation can show it is not afraid to talk about race and what happened to African Americans starting from slavery.
This courageous act amid this mass murder of African Americans in Buffalo will show the nation is standing up to racists and racism. "The nation must also cure the disease of gun violence and the ability of an 18-year-old to get not only weapons of war, but also body armor that enabled him to kill 10 people including a retired police officer who confronted him and who did not have the body armor this violent white nationalist had. Enact H.R. 40 Now! Enact Gun Safety Legislation Now. Racism is real, and America has to deal with it Now!"

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