“The memorials dedicated to the victims of the shooting, Jerrald Gallion, Anolt “A.J.” Laguerre Jr., and Angela Carr, still stood in front of the store Thursday afternoon, decorated with flowers, photos and stuffed animals,” The Florida Times-Union reports.
While the company did not host any official public memorials, they did elect to install a permanent plaque alongside the entrance reading “#JacksonvilleStrong.”
The original plans were for the store in Jacksonville’s New Town neighborhood to reopen last fall, but the company elected to solicit opinions and recommendations from the community, including local organizations, public officials, and residents for the renovated store.
The requests: “more options for fresh food and produce,” which the store is accommodating. Shoppers can now select from “a new selection of fresh fruits, vegetables and pre-made salads, as well as a widened variety of cold food options, like frozen vegetables, cold cuts and milk.”
Dollar General divisional vice president of store operations Julie Martin stated, “It was important to take the necessary time to listen to and evaluate feedback from employees and the community, which informed not only the store’s upgrades but also our efforts to reopen the store in a respectful and thoughtful manner.”
Additionally, “[t]he company also donated $1 million Friday split between Jacksonville schools, businesses and nonprofits, including Edward Waters University, Feeding Northeast Florida and 904WARD.”
In a statement, Dollar General’s vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, Denine Torr said “We want to be a part of the path forward for our DG family and the Kings Road neighborhood.”
Meanwhile, the store’s renovation and reopening is garnering mixed reactions from the community.
Resident Dana Dunn said, “It’s like they took the other store and got rid of it, and it’s clean. You can’t tell anything happened in there.”
“How can I walk and shop at a store where a man killed people at? I wouldn’t want to go in there, I wouldn’t. As a customer, I wouldn’t want to go in there,” Roosevelt Pinkney, another resident, stated.
On Aug. 26, 2023, Palmeter opened fire “near the historically Black college Edward Waters University (EWU) in Jacksonville…killing two men and one woman before shooting himself. All of the victims were Black,” as ESSENCE previously reported.
Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said at the time that the shooter “hated Black people,” and he was wearing a tactical vest, and armed “armed with an AR-15-style rifle that bore swastika markings, as well as a handgun.”
Adam Finkel, the attorney representing some of the family members and the victims’ estates, said the store’s reopening is causing the family members to endure “their own individual emotional torment.”
Finkel spoke with The Associated Press, relaying “This was the site of a horrible mass shooting that should have never happened.”
“If the store was going to be open, and a lot of people including the families and those in the community don’t want it to reopen, then it should at least reopen in a safe manner,” continued Finkel.
The press release issued by Dollar General has not addressed the security measures for the New Town reopened store.