A convenience store at 1901 Wright Ave — closed by court order as a nuisance on June 22, less than a week after a murder in the parking lot there — now features protest signs and graffiti apparently placed there by the owner. The graffiti implies that the owner was unwelcome because he is Muslim.
More information on the jump...
Photo by Brian Chilson
The city contends that the Wright Avenue Quick Stop, owned by Karakra Wael and managed by Mustafa Almagaleh, was a safe haven for drug dealers, with a security guard who had worked there telling police that drug deals happened there all day, both inside and outside the store. The LRPD said that video surveillance captured what appeared to be parking lot drug deals on tape, and at least one instance when a man pointed a pistol at another. The LRPD said they responded to the location at least 150 times in five years.
The city filed suit to have the store closed last October. Judge Alice Gray issued a temporary restraining order allowing for the closure on June 20. The building and gas pumps were boarded up by the city last Wednesday, and the parking lot is currently surrounded by striped barricades. The order to close the business came just three days after the murder of Corey Young, 30, who was shot and killed on Battery Street, soon after leaving the store. Memorial graffiti for Young, scrawled in blue spray paint, covers the corner at Wright and Battery under the Quick Stop sign. One sign on the building implies the police department didn't do enough about the crime problems there.
Clifton White, who owns several rent houses in the area, stopped for a chat when he saw the Times' reporter and photographer across the street. He said drug activity has been a problem in the neighborhood for years. He said the dealers have just relocated elsewhere. "It's going to do something for this location, but they've just moved down the street... there's another gas station, and there's at least 15 or 20 cars parked on the lot at night and they're not customers in the store,"
White discounts the idea that the store was closed because the owner is Muslim. "It's according to how you conduct your business," White said. "If you were unwelcome, you never would have gotten a license to open your business. It has nothing to do with that."
The Arkansas Blog is trying to get in touch with Wael or store manager Mustafa Almagaleh. We'll update if we do.