Shootings near grocery stores across the metro stoke fear in shoppers

At least three shootings, two of which were deadly, occurred at or near a metro Atlanta grocery store in less than 36 hours.
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 6:21 PM EDT
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RIVERDALE, Ga. (CBS46) - Shoppers are on edge following several shootings at or near grocery stores across metro Atlanta.

A trip to Walmart is a one-stop shop for LeAnna Perry, but the 74-year-old is growing more concerned for her safety after witnessing the aftermath of a shooting at the Walmart in Riverdale on Thursday evening.

“It’s just so much violence,” Perry said, as she waited for the store to reopen Friday afternoon. “It’s terrible. I don’t feel as safe as I used to. I’m very watchful. I’m looking around, seeing who’s around me, what’s going on.”

According to Riverdale police, 18-year-old Matthew Thomas Jr. got into an argument with another man in the meat section of the store - and shot him in the leg. Thomas appeared before a judge, who denied his bond Friday morning.

“He was in pain,” recalled Perry, who witnessed the aftermath of the shooting Thursday. “Why do we have to do? Why do we have to be so violent?”

The shooting was the third to happen at/or near a metro Atlanta grocery store in less than 36 hours.

“It concerns me a little bit,” said one shopper.

“We’ve got to get better,” another shopper added.

Wednesday afternoon, a 43-year-old man was killed outside a DeKalb County shopping center, anchored by a Kroger. Hours later, a 21-year-old man was shot to death in the parking lot of the Douglasville Commons. Investigators released a photo of a silver Toyota Camry they believe may be linked to the crime.

“They’re happening all over but certainly grocery stores,” said William Flynn with Power of Preparedness.

The company provides guidelines and best practices for grocery retailers, among other industries, to enhance their preparedness and response for an active shooter incident along the full continuum of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

“Certainly, some of the major chains are doing some enhanced security,” Flynn said. “We need to make sure that the private sector, including grocery stores, enhance their security, train their people, network with local law enforcement, undertake an assessment.”

Flynn said training is foundational.

“It’s so important that not just management of security people, but all employees receive training, all associates, all salespeople because they’re the ones that come into direct contact,” he added.

When CBS46 reached out to Walmart inquiring about safety measures in place, a spokesperson said stores have additional security in “markets of specific.” The retail giant also holds regular active shooter training with three primary focuses: Avoid danger, keep your distance, and defend, if necessary.

A Kroger spokesperson released the following statement:

The safety of our customers and associates is our number one priority. We continue to work with private security companies and local law enforcement to build an even greater security presence in our stores, as well as working with property management companies to maintain well-lit parking lots to help deter criminal activity.

We also encourage customers to ask a for an associate or security escort if they feel uncomfortable walking to their cars alone – and most importantly, if a customer or associate sees something that makes them uncomfortable, immediately tell on-site security personnel or store management.

“It’s really sad,” said Perry.

The widow has learned to keep her head on a swivel, sadden that a simply stop to the store could be a death sentence.

“These are days when people need to be careful and prayerful because we don’t know where, when or how things are going to happen,” she said.

Douglasville police and DeKalb County police continue to look for the gunmen connected to the murders in their communities. Anyone with information is asked to call the respective agencies or Crimestoppers.