Worker arrested in customer shooting in Detroit

George Hunter
The Detroit News

For the second straight week, an employee of a Detroit business on Sunday stepped from behind bulletproof glass to shoot a customer following an argument, police said.

Sunday’s shooting at the Motor City Coney Island on East McNichols and Oakland prompted Detroit’s top cop to express concern about how employees of some city businesses are handling disputes with customers.

“I want to send a message to some of these businesses,” police Chief James Craig said Sunday. “I’m still getting information, but from what I can tell, this latest shooting really concerns me, coming off a similar incident last week. This will get the full attention of law enforcement.”

The latest incident happened between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, after the customer and employee exchanged heated words, said Deputy Chief Todd Bettison.

“Preliminarily, we believe the customer went into the eatery and there was a dispute with the employee,” Bettison said.

Bettison said details were sketchy Sunday, but at some point the employee apparently followed the customer to the rear of the restaurant, where the employee opened fire near a Dumpster.

“The employee fired his gun and struck the victim in the leg,” Bettison said, adding that the victim was listed in critical condition in Henry Ford Hospital.

The victim ran westbound on McNichols about a half-block before collapsing, leaving a trail of blood on the sidewalk.

“He lost quite a lot of blood,” Bettison said of the victim, who is in his early 20s.

The employee was arrested. Investigators obtained a search warrant and were poring over surveillance video to get a better idea of what happened, Bettison said.

There has long been tension between Detroit’s black community and the owners and employees of gas stations and other city businesses.

In 2001, the Detroit civil rights activist the Rev. Horace Sheffield organized a 30-day boycott of Arab-owned gas stations following a string of incidents including the 1999 beating death of Kalvin Porter, a 34-year-old black electrician, by two Yemini immigrants who were acquitted of murder charges.

Sunday’s incident comes a week after Rami Ali Jaber, 26, of Dearborn Heights, an employee of a Citgo gas station on West McNichols and Southfield, allegedly shot Derek Leon Roberts, 34, of Detroit.

Police say Jaber walked from behind the bulletproof glass and fired a single shot to Roberts’ chest, killing him. Jaber was charged with first-degree murder. He was denied bond Tuesday at his arraignment in 36th District Court.

“I’m very disturbed by this,” said the Rev. W.J. Rideout III, founder of Defenders of Truth and Justice and senior pastor of All God’s People Church in Detroit. “My heart cries about this kind of stuff.

“I’m going to call on every activist, every minister, every citizen to protest what’s happening,” Rideout said. “These business owners need to know we’re not going to tolerate them continually shooting unarmed black men.

“Just recently, we had one coney island owner who poured scalding hot water in the face of a homeless woman,” Rideout said. “Then there was the shooting last week (at the Citgo station). Now this. It’s got to stop. It’s got to stop today.”

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN