Gas sta­tion shoot­ings draw area’s con­cern

Mor­gan ad­vises stu­dents to avoid North­wood fa­cil­ity un­til se­cu­rity im­proves

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Tim Pru­dente tpru­dente@balt­sun.com

“Bal­ti­more City has a greater prob­lem. ... If it’s not here to­day, it will be some­place else.” Faisal Khan, whose fam­ily owns gas sta­tion

Mor­gan State Univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors, po­lice and neigh­bor­hood lead­ers are or­ga­niz­ing to stop fur­ther vi­o­lence in the area around a North­east Bal­ti­more gas sta­tion where two shoot­ings have oc­curred in three days.

A man was reach­ing for a bot­tled drink in the gas sta­tion Sun­day af­ter­noon when he was jumped and beaten by two oth­ers; the in­ci­dent was caught on sur­veil­lance video. Po­lice say the fight ended with gun­fire that wounded a teenager.

Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis spoke Mon­day with Mor­gan State Pres­i­dent David Wil­son about crime at the busi­ness in the Hillen neigh­bor­hood. T.J. Smith, a Bal­ti­more po­lice spokesman, said the lo­ca­tion is fre­quented by drug deal­ers, and po­lice have stepped up pa­trols there.

“We do be­lieve this is some sort of drug hub,” Smith said.

Com­mu­nity lead­ers ar­ranged a meet­ing to­day with Mor­gan of­fi­cials, the gas sta­tion’s own­ers and po­lice to air their con­cerns. Stacy Ridge­way, pres­i­dent of the Hillen Road Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, said they can col­lab­o­rate on so­lu­tions.

“It’s not the gas sta­tion’s fault,” Ridge­way said. “We can’t sit down and point fin­gers.”

Early Fri­day, a 20-year-old man was shot in his arm while sit­ting in a car at the gas sta­tion. The shooter opened fire about 1:15 a.m. on a crowd gath­ered out­side.

At about 2 p.m. Sun­day, a 19-year-old was shot in his shoul­der dur­ing the fight at the gas sta­tion.

“We’ve been here 16 years and haven’t seen that num­ber of crimes,” said Faisal Khan, who runs the BP gas sta­tion at 1501 Haven­wood Road.

The shoot­ings, he said, stemmed from ar­gu­ments among youths off the grounds. Khan is con­sid­er­ing hir­ing a se­cu­rity guard and in­stalling more sur­veil­lance cam­eras, he said. Al­ready the store has signs warn­ing: “No hang­ing around in the store” and “En­forced by Bal­ti­more Po­lice.”

“I’m open to any ideas,” Khan said. “Bal­ti­more City has a greater prob­lem. ... If it’s not here to­day, it will be some­place else.”

Mor­gan State’s direc­tor of pub­lic safety, Adrian Wig­gins, emailed stu­dents Sun­day, ad­vis­ing them to avoid the gas sta­tion un­til se­cu­rity im­proves.

The stu­dents make up about 60 per­cent of cus­tomers, Khan said. His fa­ther, Sar­fraz Khan, ar­rived from Pak­istan in the late 1970s and worked days as a bank teller and nights as a restau­rant chef and news­pa­per car­rier to buy the busi­ness 16 years ago.

“It’s our whole liveli­hood,” Faisal Khan said. “The sup­port of the stu­dents has been won­der­ful to us. That’s why I’m shocked for them to say boy­cott us.”

Mor­gan State sopho­more Rudy Nor­wood, a so­ci­ol­ogy ma­jor and quar­ter­back on the foot­ball team, stopped in the gas sta­tion on Mon­day af­ter­noon. Nor­wood said he avoids the all-night gas sta­tion after dark.

“It’s not a cool hang­out spot at night,” he said. “You see all the lo­cal drug deal­ers.”

The area has grap­pled with crime for years. In 2008, for­mer City Coun­cil­man Ken­neth Har­ris Sr. was shot and killed across the street at North­wood Plaza dur­ing a rob­bery.

De­vel­op­ers plan a $50 mil­lion over­haul of the di­lap­i­dated shop­ping cen­ter to serve as a bridge be­tween Mor­gan State and the com­mu­nity. Mor­gan State is con­struct­ing aca­demic build­ings be­side the plaza.

De­vel­oper Mark Ren­baum of MLR Part­ners said he heard the news of shoot­ings at the gas sta­tion over the week­end. He said he doesn’t be­lieve the Khan fam­ily had un­der­stood the ex­tent of the crime prob­lem.

“They’re very well-in­ten­tioned folks,” he said. “I don’t think they prob­a­bly ap­pre­ci­ated how se­vere the prob­lem was, and I think they do now.”

Smith, the po­lice spokesman, said the own­ers are re­spon­si­ble for se­cu­rity at the gas sta­tion.

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