Mornings are usually the same for Sallam Jamal. He opens 888 Joseph Food & Deli around 8 a.m. and starts a few pots of coffee, his aroma filling the corner store before people do. The store is full of items: cold drinks, some chilled goods, tufts of hair, a wall of cigarettes and cigars. There are early morning regulars, people who come for a cup of fresh coffee after a long night shift at work or before heading out for the day.
But Friday morning was different.
Half a mile from the store on Thursday night, two Rochester Police Department officers were shot and killed on Bauman Street, Constable Anthony Mazurkiewicz fatally. A passerby was also injured. As investigators from multiple agencies descended on the neighborhood looking for the attacker, they blocked off a wide radius, preventing people from returning home. The blockade, which also restricted access to parts of Joseph Avenue, continued until Friday morning.
At 10:20 a.m., 888 Joseph was still closed.
Jackie Picklin, 61, who lives just off Joseph Ave., woke up Friday ready to drive to Oasis, where she works. After stopping at 888 Joseph for a coffee, she usually takes the bus at Joseph & Avenue D to cross town. But this morning was different. The bus did not run; she had to miss work. Picklin’s long night had dragged on into the morning.
Michael Sanders, 24, was forced to sleep in his car on Thursday night after perimeter police blocked access to his Bauman Street home.
“I got off work at 10 a.m. last night, and they didn’t let me in until 10 a.m. this morning,” Sanders said. “They blocked everywhere, trying to find (the shooter).”
His family slept inside, a few blocks from the incident, while Sanders parked on Hudson Avenue and waited.
“I understand why they did it,” he said of the street closures, “but if someone tells you they live right there, at least walk them home. “
Reopening of Avenue Joseph.
Around 10:30 a.m. Friday, law enforcement began lifting the perimeter, allowing the neighborhood to wind down in its day. The store at 888 Joseph Avenue opened about half an hour later. Jamal hadn’t finished turning on the lights when the first customer entered, a man wanting to buy something to eat and drink. In the first half hour the store was open, two dozen people walked in and out, and customers were relieved from the morning heat and scorching sun.
The first conversations centered on these points: the violence must stop, the police must come from the community and the community needs more resources. But clients have also wondered why some instances of violence elicit certain reactions and others do not. Before Jamal could finish speaking, his first client of the day, a man who wouldn’t give his name, intervened.
“The mayor is doing publicity stunts,” the man said. “We were here last night. A special assistant from his office was talking to us. We said that when an individual, like one of ours, gets shot here, that (expletive) doesn’t come out… This community needs help. It is one of the poorest sections of the postcode. Poverty is at its highest level in this part of the city.
Picklin thinks the mayor’s recent declaration of a gun violence emergency is too little, too late.
“Why are you going to wait until the last minute? she asks. “I’ve never seen so much application in my life – what about these other people here, family members who are still grieving? You don’t show so much love to them. You don’t even come out and see, but when something big like this happens, you want to be the center of attention.”
She thinks Mayor Evans should go to the communities, “where the poor are.”
Jamal’s second customer, a woman and her toddler, placed a package of hot dogs on the counter. She was visibly tired and hot. With 888 closed, she and her child had to walk to Wilkins Street, at least half a mile away, in search of food to buy. Because the area is a food desert, the absence of a convenience store can prevent people from eating. The nearest peaks are 1.6 km away, or about 20 minutes on foot in the event of a heat wave. But Picklin says Jamal is “watching over everyone.”
“No one understands what it’s like to really live in poverty and not have (expletive),” the man continued.
He thinks things won’t change until there are more resources, like jobs that pay a living wage and offer opportunities outside of the hustle and bustle.
Jay Smith, 40, who stopped by 888 for a coffee, thinks the community needs “better leaders, quality education and justice.”
“Police should be from the community,” Smith said. “If the police are from the neighborhood, they may relate more to their neighbors. You can hold them accountable if you see them at the grocery store or in different places. But if they don’t live in the community, they don’t have no responsibility.”
“I don’t think anyone deserves this”
“I have been here for 61 years. I’m tired of the violence,” Picklin said. “My condolences go out to the cop and the person who was shot, but there’s so much violence and so much going on. Our city is hurting a lot. We’re hurting.
“He’s married, he has kids and a family that he misses and I don’t think anyone deserves that,” Jamal said. “I think it’s time to stop the violence – we have to do something to take up arms… It’s not good for business, not good for the community. It’s very difficult now for ( the) family of the deceased policeman.”
Sanders, the man who had slept in his car overnight, grew up in the neighborhood – one he now describes as a ‘fishbowl’ – but the recent increase in gun violence is pushing him to move to the hope for a better life for her 2-year-old son and 9-month-old daughter.
“I can’t raise these kids here,” he said. “You can’t even walk to the corner store without worrying. We are not going to the park. In Charlotte (Beach), there are always fights breaking out.
Sanders said he was ready to move anywhere.
“It’s hard to stop gun violence when you don’t know where the guns come from,” he said. “And these days everyone is trying to get a gun for their own protection. It’s a lose-lose situation.
“I know there are deaths and murders everywhere, but I prefer to go somewhere where at least I don’t know the person who is killed.”
‘We need to be here’
Next door, Amelia ‘Cookie’ Rivera awaited a late cup of coffee from her husband Jaime as she tried to settle back into a day’s routine on Joseph Avenue.
Earlier in the morning, Local Motion Sport & Fashion, the gift shop the couple have owned since 1986, sat alongside a strip of shops just behind the yellow police tape.
Jaime lingered a few feet away. It was clear he wasn’t going to open the shop on time that morning. But he wanted to be there anyway.
“It just kinda hurts,” Jaime said of the violence in the neighborhood. “It’s so sad that they can’t control this. Not only are police officers hurt, but public citizens are hurt.”
As residents temporarily lost access to the stores they depend on for their wares, store owners in turn lost the business they depended on to survive.
Jaime used to keep his store open until 9 p.m. In recent years, it has made the decision to close at nightfall.
But the somber atmosphere that reigned on Avenue Joseph on Friday undermines the verve that regularly gushes out of the Riveras’ boutique.
Each summer, the couple lines the storefront with colorful flags celebrating a diverse community. Puerto Rican flags. Pride flags. Black Lives Matter flags. American flags and more. Just inside, a wall proudly houses dozens of happy photos of customers outside the shop.
Jaime described his community as a community of acceptance.
“No matter your lifestyle, we treat it with respect,” he said.
This fact made Thursday’s shooting more painful.
“It could be your child, your brother, your sister,” he said. “It could be them over there getting hurt like that.”
But it also makes the return of the communal routine, his livelihood, all the more important.
By 11 a.m., the police tape was gone and the Riveras’ shop was open again.
The decision was easy for Amelia.
“The (Puerto Rican) festival – it’s coming,” she said. “We have to be here.”