(CNN) – Nothing can stop Damon Parker from shopping at this city's newest Kroger, not even the terrible memory of a deadly shooting he witnessed there 28 years ago.
Parker, cousin Stephanie Buffington and their girlfriend Cynthia Prioleau were almost inside the Atlanta supermarket when a shooter in a car approached and began shooting in daylight.
Prioleau, 25, was the only person hit. She died that day. Her killer has not been found. Since then, at least two unrelated killings and a number of assaults have gone down at Kroger and a nearby apartment complex, the Atlanta Police Department told CNN.
Violence paved the way for a nickname that anyone directly affected by the hope of the crime will disappear when the store reopens in October after a top-to-bottom rebuild: "Murder Kroger."
While it is not uncommon for a business local reputation to serve as an informal moniker, the proliferation of Murder Kroger on T-shirts, stickers and even song lyrics has been particularly painful for those with personal ties to the attacks.
Every repetition of the eerie phrase can gnaw at grief that is still quite raw, even if it is not intended.
For those who are not connected to the killings and attacks, the phrase can only be a thrown hole. It can also, more profoundly, reflect a community's use of humor to deal with tragedy or vice versa, revealing a community that has become numb to emotional pain stemming from ordinary violence, experts told CNN.
"At this point, I am desensitized to it," Parker said of his gut reaction in the nonchalant way someone mentions Murder Kroger. Still, he wants the nickname to disappear.
"Take some kind of responsibility, don't treat it like it's some kind of trivial thing," he said. "Just think of every tragedy we've seen since 201
An alert for a doomed grocery site
When Joshua Richey, a construction worker, was killed in 2015 in Kroger's parking lot by two men trying to break into his truck, Kroger's breadth was near its peak.
The Atlanta-based band Attractive Eighties Women recorded in 2007 a song titled "Murder Kroger." The lyrics include: "It's a grocery store with a deadly twist / You get shot in the head after your shopping list / Murder Kroger / It's the worst place to shop in all of Atlanta / You could lose life over 12 packages of Fanta."
During Conan O & # 39; Brien's 2010 "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour", members of his crew stopped by Kroger for a blog post on TeamCoco.
And since Wikipedia, since mid-2015, Murder Kroger has amassed more than 250,000 page views and 70 edits.
When the Cincinnati-based grocery store owner announced in October 2016 that it would shutter the site to make room for 725 Ponce, a huge, multi-purpose development with a new Kroger 65,000-square-foot store, two people refused to let it go.
Rachel Bowen and Rowyn Hirsch organized a satirical candlelight vigil held in the grocery parking lot a day before it closed. About 50 people participated. A moment of silence was held for victims of crimes there. Some people lit candles. Others wore Murder Kroger T-shirts, while a woman sported a Kroger paper bag with the word "murder" written on it in a blood-like font.
"I had just turned 19 at that time and had started the event as a kind of joke with a friend because, unlike many people, I use humor to deal with tragic things," Hirsch told CNN. "Suddenly, our joke had become a news.
"We had people who knew that the original victim reached out and told us we were insensitive, sent us threatening messages and called us names," she said. "Remember we were just the face of it. The whole town had been calling it Murder Kroger for years. It was all a bit overwhelming."
Parker did not respect the vigilant atmosphere. The event inspired him to share his in-store experience in the story, "Surviving Murder Kroger," which was released the following month.
"It was a party," he said. "Everything was ridiculous. There was nothing serious about it all."
The Roots of Atlanta's Fascination
Social and economic factors may explain the disconnect between some of those attending vigilance and victims' loved ones, said Sarah Cook, a psychology professor at Georgia State University (GSU), who has a campus in the center about three miles from Kroger.
These kinds of differences may have allowed adult participants to put a social distance between themselves and the victims, thus ignoring the costs or consequences of the incident for their survivors, Cook told CNN.
The incident and nickname that inspired it may also mirror the effects of violence in America, GSU's John Burrison, an English professor of folklore studies, told CNN in an email.
"I think" Murder Kroger "also reflects a fascination for crime and violence (as evidenced by the number of" police fairs "on commercial television, and in folklore, the large number of American homicide ballads). I wouldn't call that fascination unique American, but ours is certainly a violent country compared to many others, "Burrison said in an email.
For Buffington, who witnessed Prioleau's shooting, the Murder Kroger fascination has a simpler explanation: The moniker and its captures exemplify people's "very sickly minds," she said.
"Murder should never be a joke. What if it was one of their loved ones?" she said. "These people are financially benefiting from the killing of someone's love."
The rise of & # 39; BeltLine Kroger & # 39;
The new Kroger reopened October 16 along the Atlanta BeltLine, a popular multi-use trail. The hotel has a large outdoor dining area, a Starbucks and a BBQ restaurant. Local headlines called the store "Beltline Kroger", while others refused to let "Murder Kroger" die.
"The store signifies Kroger's ongoing commitment to the community and ongoing financial prosperity in Atlanta," Kroger spokeswoman Kristal Howard told CNN. "The City of Atlanta, community leaders, residents and businesses have come together to create and nurture a very special and safe place for residents and visitors."
She declined to comment on the store's long-standing nickname.
Much has changed in Atlanta since the first killing of Kroger in 1991, when Fulton County recorded 231 killings, data from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation show. In 2017, that number was 124.
As the homicide rate has dropped across the county, BeltLines Eastside Trail, with which the new Kroger sits, has transformed neighborhoods around it into some of the most desirable and costly places to live in the city thanks to millions sunk into commercial development.
One of the many patrons who want to visit the new Kroger is Parker, now 47, who plans to frequent it with his two granddaughters.
The various Murder Kroger equipment didn't bother him as much as they used to. Still, the community still makes its tacit acceptance of the store's violent characterization.
"There is nothing they can do at this time," Parker said. "They've let it go too long. It's a little too late. It was something that should have been taken up a long time ago."
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