Shooting victim dies; city may close store

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2001

[07/25/01] The man shot near Cherry and Clay streets Tuesday morning died about 15 hours later.

As a result, City of Vicksburg sources said they may try to shut down a business at the busy intersection because of repeated violence in the area.

Warren County Coroner John Thomason said Eddie Baker, who was 38, died at 4:55 p.m. Tuesday. He had been shot once in the stomach.

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Baker, a native of Chicago who had recently moved to Vicksburg, was shot about 2:50 a.m. while standing near Ernest Thomas Realty on Cherry Street.

According to police reports, Baker apparently fought with someone in the area of the real estate business after leaving The Smoke Break at Clay and Cherry streets and next door to the real estate business.

No one has been charged.

Thomason said an autopsy would be performed Wednesday at Mississippi Mortuary in Pearl, but the death would be ruled a homicide.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said Tuesday afternoon that a city ordinance could be used to declare the business a public nuisance if the atmosphere at the store doesn’t change.

“When you boil it down, The Smoke Break is nothing more than a bar that happens to be in the parking lot,” Leyens said.

Police Chief Mitchell Dent said he is reviewing the number of times police have been dispatched to the store and the nature of the calls. “We have increased our patrol units there, but they can’t sit there all night long,” he said.

The number of calls to the 24-hour store was not available, but Leyens said that when he rode with police on a recent weekend night they were called to the store five times in one hour.

Dent said a few hours before the Tuesday morning shooting, an officer spent more than 30 minutes in the parking lot of the store before leaving on another call.

“We are keeping a check on that area and running people off from there,” Dent said.

Leyens said he spoke to Jamal Khouri, owner of the store, after the June 28 shooting of 31-year-old Stephen Bailey in the parking lot of the business.

Leyens said Khouri made a commitment that he would make the store a safe environment. Leyens said Tuesday that he plans to meet with Khouri again to discuss the future of the business.

“I am basically going to give him fair warning that we are going to reinvent what The Smoke Break is for this community or it is going to be gone,” Leyens said.

Khouri could not be reached.

Bailey, 1206 China St., was shot once in the back after fighting with another man inside the store. He was released from ParkView several days later.

Preston Lee Wilson, 27, 230 Fisher Ferry Road Apt. 47, was arrested about 30 minutes after Bailey was shot and charged with aggravated assault. He remains in the Warren County Jail.

Less than a year ago Dock Davis Jr., 1512 South St., beat Bobby Pinkney with a metal pipe in the parking lot of the store.

Pinkney, who was 37, died Aug. 27, one day after being beaten, and the aggravated assault charge against Davis was upgraded to manslaughter.

On June 22, Davis, 19, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to the manslaughter charge. He will serve four years of the sentence.

The city has used the nuisance law to close a business before.

Last month, an Indianola judge granted a permanent injunction ruling that Coach’s, 1211 Washington St., was a public nuisance and must remain closed. The club had been closed since the court proceedings began in April.

The administration of former Mayor Robert Walker started the legal action against the club because of what they termed “obnoxious activities” and merchants complained of broken windows in their stores and urine in their doorways. Court papers showed that police had been called to the club more than 200 times since it opened in 1998.

Last year, police presence downtown was increased after a Washington Street business owner videotaped what was going on in the early morning hours. The tape showed dozens of people wandering up and down the street in front of Coach’s with open containers of alcohol in violation of a city law.

In Vicksburg, at least two other bars deemed unruly by the city were closed in the 1990s after numerous police calls.

In 1999, complaints of unruly crowds, brawling and vandalism in front of Club T-Rel on Washington Street ended when the business lost its lease.