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Arkansas grocery store reopens in wake of mass shooting that left 4 dead

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FORDYCE, Ark. (AP) — The sounds that filled the Mad Butcher grocery store on Tuesday — the beeping barcode scanners, the rattle of shopping carts and cash register drawers opening — were familiar ones for customers and employees of the only grocery store in the small Arkansas town of Fordyce.

But this was not a normal day for the store, which reopened 11 days after a shooter killed four people and injured 10 others in Mad Butcher and its parking lot. Community leaders called Tuesday’s reopening an important part of the healing process for a town of 3,200 shocked by the mass shooting.

“It’s more than a store,” said Dallas County Sheriff Mike Knoedl, who had responded to the shooting and was on hand for the store’s reopening. “It’s a meeting place. Every time I’m in this store, I’m in it two or three times a week, you’re talking to neighbors. Everybody knows everybody.”

The store’s closure left Fordyce without a grocery store and few nearby alternatives in the aftermath of the shooting, prompting several food distribution sites to be set up throughout the community. Though the town has a Walmart and discount retailers with some food options, the closest grocery stores or supermarkets are located in neighboring cities at least half an hour away.

“This is Fordyce,” said Dick Rinehart, a mechanic who went to the store Tuesday to buy ribs, bread and lunchmeat. “Without this grocery store, where would we go?”

Employees and volunteers who were there for the reopening handed customers shirts that read #WeAreFordyceStrong. A banner with the same message has hung under the store’s green awning since the shooting occurred. Memorials to the victims of the shooting, including flowers and crosses, sit near the store’s parking lot.

Kent J. Broughton, a pastor in Fordyce who was loading up his cart with watermelons, said the store’s reopening restores a place for many in the community to connect with family or friends.

“If you’re bored and you need something to do, if you want to see somebody, just go to the grocery store,” Broughton said. “You’re going to run into somebody you know, a friend or cousin or something, and you pick up from there.”

Police have not given a motive for the shooting. Travis Eugene Posey, 44, pleaded not guilty last week to four counts of capital murder and ten counts of attempted capital murder and is being held in a neighboring county’s jail without bond. Posey was injured after a shootout with police officers who responded to the attack, authorities said.

Police have said Posey was armed with a handgun and a shotgun, and multiple gunshot victims were found in the store and its parking lot. Authorities have said Posey did not appear to have a personal connection to any of the victims.

The Mad Butcher reopened more quickly than two other grocery stores that have been the sites of mass shootings in recent years. A Buffalo, New York, grocery store reopened two months after a gunman killed 10 Black people in 2022. A Boulder, Colorado, supermarket where 10 were killed in 2021 reopened nearly a year later.

The Fordyce store reopened the day after the last of four funerals for the victims, who ranged in age from 23 to 81. Mayor John MacNichol said he never would have imagined a mass shooting occurring in his close-knit town, but said he’s been proud of the community’s response.

“I think we’re doing OK. I ain’t saying we’re doing great,” MacNichol said. “But I think it’s bringing the community closer together and uniting us.”

By ANDREW DeMILLO
Associated Press

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