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Two witnesses who had an encounter with the suspected Tops shooter speak

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Posted at 5:27 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 17:46:41-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Two people who witnessed the Tops shooting claim they had encounters with the suspected mass shooter the day before he took the lives of ten innocent black people.

Grady Lewis is a witness and survivor who had a conversation with the suspected gunman the day before the massacre.

“I saw him Friday the day before walking out of Tops, and when I saw him walking out of Tops he looked out of place now looking back on it,” Lewis says. “I must’ve felt a really strange energy because I questioned him and he had a shirt on that says 'Genius.'”

Lewis didn’t realize the suspect in this case was the person he had bought a Gatorade and spoke with for two hours until police showed him a picture of the suspect.

“Going backward for a second that day he asked me, 'Are you going to be here tomorrow?' I said, 'Yea.' I’m thinking he wanted to come and talk to me again since he lives in a small town,” he says. “And wanted to talk to some black people. I didn’t think he was going to come here and open fire.”

Grady Lewis wasn’t the only one who ran into the suspect, Jahlya McKnight, who works at tops, tells me he too had a conversation with the suspect.

“We spoke about politics. We also talked about who was the first president and where everybody originated from it was a normal conversation,” McKnight says. “And he had a 'genius' shirt on that’s what really caught my eye. After that, he left and he said, 'I'd make sure that you’re not here.'”

But it’s not too late for people like Grady Lewis and Jahlya McKnight to seek help in this traumatic event.

“It takes time and a part of it you can’t rationalize what happened, but being able to talk with professionals and connecting with loved ones,” says Kelly Dumas, a chief operating officer of BestSelf Behavioral Health Services.

Dumas says she’s sure there will be a long-term commitment to providing services to the community that’s heavily impacted by this tragedy.

“We’re encouraging people not to isolate and get out, and mobilizing teams of people,” Dumas says.