A CLOSER LOOK: El Paso Walmart rebuilds in wake of massacre

A Closer Look

Walmart personnel are rebuilding the El Paso store and looking forward to a new beginning while still honoring those killed in the mass shooting.

A memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 8, 2019. (NEXSTAR)

EL PASO, Texas (KNWA) — The El Paso Walmart where 22 people were killed and 24 injured was cleared out of all its stock and is being renovated toward a new beginning.

The Walmart in El Paso has been closed since the massacre occurred at the store on Aug. 3. Since then, all fresh and perishable products have been disposed of, and none of the general merchandise on the shelves have been repurposed for the store when it opens again, said Randy Hargrove, Walmart spokesperson.

“That was our choice to do that. The fresh and perishable, you have to get rid of that. But to remove everything in the store, that was our decision,” Hargove said.

The store will be closed until either November or December as renovations take place, according to Hargrove.

The Walmart where the mass shooting occurred is one of the most popular stores in the country, frequented by both customers throughout the city and Mexicans visiting the U.S., Hargrove said.

Hargrove said he could not reveal how much revenue Walmart would lose by not repurposing the products. He also said the company cannot divulge how much revenue is being lost by the store being closed for several months. Finally, the company cannot reveal whether insurance will recoup any of the money lost because of the shooting.

Hargrove also would not specify what will happen to the products taken off shelves. Hargrove could only say that those products will not be for sale at any Walmart store.

The Sam’s Club next door to the Walmart where the mass shooting occurred was closed in the days following the shooting. Shooting survivors were taken to the Sam’s Club lobby for safety in the shooting’s immediate aftermath.

That Sam’s Club is back open. The fresh and perishable food at that store was disposed of, but the other merchandise is still on shelves, Hargrove said.

The entire interior of the store will be rebuilt. Unmovable items such as freezers will stay in place, but the stores fixtures, flooring, lights and other pieces are all being replaced, Hargrove said.

“Giving everything that happened, it’s a fresh start for our associates and for the customers,” Hargrove said. “You may see a different layout and different things we are doing from a company standpoint with some of the newer things that we’ve introduced, [such as] online grocery. The layout will reflect that.”

Renovating the store is a thoughtful process, according to Hargrove.

“As we consider next steps for the store, we continue to proceed thoughtfully and have been greatly encouraged by feedback from our associates and community leaders,” Hargrove said in a written statement. “We are currently developing the plan for the extensive work that will be required and hope to share details about our re-opening plans in the coming weeks.”

Walmart personnel are also developing plans for a permanent memorial at the store.

“We will proceed thoughtfully and with great regard for our associates, the victims and the community as we undertake re-building the store’s interior and planning for a permanent memorial on-site,” Hargrove said in the statement. “We have begun to engage our associates in discussions about a permanent memorial at the store. Our goal is to establish a memorial that honors the victims, recognizes the binational relationship between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez and celebrates the strength of the El Paso community.”

Hargrove would not speculate on whether a memorial for the El Paso mass shooting victims would be built at any other Walmart stores.

“At this point we’re focusing strictly on El Paso,” he said.

The tragedy and its victims will be recognized when the store reopens, Hargrove said.

“Our focus right now is rebuilding the store, trying to get that reopened and there will be a memorial and certainly there will be an opening day ceremony as part of that,” Hargrove said.

There is now extra security at Walmart stores in the El Paso area, according to Hargrove. Those additional security measures cannot be revealed out of consideration for the safety of store associates and customers.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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