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Call for more support from Tops by people that escaped the shooting on May 14

“Why aren't these people reaching out to the living victims to say hey listen we know that you were in there. Some of these people were in the midst of it. My cousin has a burn mark on her head.”
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Posted at 6:13 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 18:13:19-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW)  — Those speaking for the survivors of Tops mass shooting say not enough is being done when it comes to outreach and other resources.

The activists speaking for the survivors and witnesses say several of those who escaped the shooting suffer from wounds many can't see.

"We're also demanding that all surviving victims and their families have full compensation and time off so they can properly heal from this tragic event that happened here," says one of the activists.

It's a demand for mental and financial resources for those who witnessed and survived the mass shooting inside the Tops on Jefferson Avenue.

Reneitha Cottom is speaking for those survivors, including her cousin, who Cottom says was ready to put her life on the line for her 14-year-old daughter.

"So she had a gun put to her head by the 18-year-old, and as he put his gun into her head, from my understanding, that's when police said surrender," she says. "And he took the gun off her head, and she's begging for her life and telling her baby that she loves her, so he lifted his gun up and told her it was her lucky day."

Cottom says there hasn't been enough outreach from Tops and that she and others won't be returning to Tops on Jefferson Avenue or any other Tops.

"Why aren't these people reaching out to the living victims to say, hey listen, we know that you were in there," she says. "Some of these people were in the midst of it. My cousin has a burn mark on her head."

A survivor, Taisiah Stewart, escaped a bullet.

"I went and sat in front of the store by the windows of the push carts and I don't know what drew my attention toward the police guard but I started starring at him," Stewart says. "And as soon as he walked outside, I heard the gunshots, and I instantly turned my head and I've seen the first lady dying, so I started running to the back and fell and hurt my ankle."

Stewart says that he continues to play the moments when he ran away from the bullet to live.

"I don't sleep like that. I barely eat," he says.

7 News reached out to Tops President John Persons for comment, but 7 News was told he was unavailable.

Tops contributed to the Buffalo 5-14 Survivors Fund, donating $500,000.

All employees of the Jefferson Avenue tops are also still being paid by the grocery store chain.

But for, survivors and witnesses to the massacre still feel they're not being heard.

"The message here is there were 63 victims in that store, and all 63 need to be treated fair and the same," says Reneitha Cottom. "There's a lot of people who don't want to be on camera, and that's why we're here to be their voice."