Gas station shootings draw area’s concern
Morgan advises students to avoid Northwood facility until security improves
“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.