City files suit to close Fastway

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 13, 2002

[02/9/02] Attorneys for the City of Vicksburg have filed suit seeking to close a convenience store near the site of at least two shootings in the past six months.

Jamal Khouri, Ernest Thomas, Hill City Oil Company and Herbert E. Stathes have been named in the complaint made public Friday. A judge will decide if the Fastway convenience store, 1209 Cherry St., is a public nuisance as defined by city ordinance and should be permanently closed.

The city contends in the suit in Warren County Chancery Court that, “various illegal and obnoxious activities, including fighting, homicides, assaults, public intoxication, disturbance of the peace and other illegal activities and disturbances, as will be shown at trial, have continually occurred in and near the subject convenience store.”

The city action comes weeks after Glen Evans, 35, was found dead Jan. 29 on the sidewalk on Cherry Street near the store. Jeffery Morrison, 39, 1410 First East St., was arrested hours later and charged with murder.

Six months earlier, city officials had pushed for changes at Fastway, known then as Smoke Break, after Eddie Baker, 38, 727 Adams St., was shot and killed nearby. The area was cleaned up, and changes were made to include better lighting and new signs at the store that operates 24 hours a day.

In the Baker case, 18-year-old Brian Jamal Wilson, 113 Springridge Drive, was arrested and initially charged with murder.

On Friday, he pleaded guilty before Circuit Court Judge Frank Vollor to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years, eight to serve and seven suspended.

Since Baker’s shooting death, the owner of the store has been named in two civil lawsuits accusing the business of negligence in allowing violence and seeking money damages.

Records indicate that 911 calls from the shop area have dropped by two-thirds since August over the previous 18 months, but Mayor Laurence Leyens has said problems are still too numerous at the store on Cherry Street’s intersection with Clay Street, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. Between Aug. 9 and Jan. 18, E-911 received 65 medic and law-enforcement calls to the store, phone logs show. During the 18 months before August, 800 calls were recorded.

The shop is owned and operated by Khouri, but the property is owned by Thomas, who also owns the real estate business next door. Hill City Oil and Stathes lease the property from Thomas for the store.

Khouri and Thomas could not be reached for comment.

Under city ordinance, a business can be closed if it is deemed to have “obnoxious activities.” That law has previously been used to close at least two downtown businesses.

“The unreasonable, consistent pattern of illegal conduct, illegal activities and violence creates a condition which endangers the public welfare,” attorneys for the city wrote in the suit.

A meeting has been set for 10 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall Annex to discuss problems associated with crimes at convenience stores. The city is asking other convenience store, restaurant and other business owners attend the meeting.

Exxon Jubilee store No. 114 at Clay Street and Mission 66 was also the site of violence in December when five people were shot in the parking lot after an argument.