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Gas mart shut by Detroit police reopens

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — The owner of a gas station that was shut down earlier this week reopened his store Friday after signing an agreement with police not to sell drug paraphernalia.

Police on Wednesday shut down the John R. Gas Mart at the Sunoco gas station at Eight Mile and John R. after they recovered 23 brown bags known as “ready kits” during a raid Tuesday. The kits sell for $5 and include a lighter, glass pipe and a piece of Chore Boy scrubber sponge, authorities said.

An attorney for store owner Mike Ajami said his client is ready to “put this matter behind him.”

“My client objected from day one when he was shut down,” Troy Otto said. “There’s an agreement in place and my client is open for business, so he’ll honor the terms of the agreement.”

In addition to the ban on drug paraphernalia sales, the agreement calls for installation of video surveillance on premises, Sgt. Cassandra Lewis said.

“And to continue with their license renewal, they must have all their inspections and have all their business licenses and permits up-to-date,” Lewis said.

The store’s reopening represents a step toward stronger business in the city, Lewis said.

“We want our businesses to become good partners and good neighbors and we want our businesses to be successful,” she said. “We will continue to work with them to reach that goal and this is a great step toward that.”

Commander Todd Bettison praised what he called a “quick turnaround” between the store closure Wednesday and reopening Friday.

“There was a hearing within 48 hours, and he’s back open,” Bettison said. “He’s agreed to be what the community wants him to be.”

Bettison said police will continue searching for other gas stations selling “ready kits” or other types of drug paraphernalia.

“The community can let us know (when they see paraphernalia for sale), and we will be on the lookout for that as well,” he said. “We hope this will be an example to all gas stations that we’re not going to tolerate it.”

Stores found to be selling paraphernalia may be forced to close like the John R. Gas Mart, Bettison said.

“We’re going to take strict enforcement action, and we will shut them down as well,” Bettison said. “But that’s the last resort. We want folks to get it right, and we’re here to offer that assistance.”

Officials closed the John R. Gas Mart after it was raided as part of a federal, state and local law enforcement crack down on large-scale heroin operations along the Woodward corridor.

“This is only the beginning ...” Chief James Craig said Wednesday of the store’s closure. “This is about making our neighborhoods safe. We can not have any business selling drugs or allowing drugs to be sold or the sale of the paraphernalia, which creates a public safety hazard.”

Police made a dozen arrests during the raids Tuesday and recovered firearms and narcotics. Officers returned to the gas station Wednesday to shut it down, citing violations of the city’s business licensing code.

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