Seward Market opens as charges loom for alleged gunmenby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — There were lit candles by the entrance to the Seward Market and Halal Meat shop on Wednesday. Signs in the windows read "Seward stands together -- no more violence."
Within minutes, customers filled its narrow aisles of carefully stacked merchandise. They bought bananas, large circles of Ethiopian bread, and bags of rice.
"We had to do a lot we had to clean up, we had to put everything back together, we had to make some more orders, we had to be ready for seeing all these people coming here," store manager Jamal Hassan said.
Its reopening came a week after gunmen entered the store and shot three men to death. Within days, police arrested two 17-year-olds in the crime. The Hennepin County Attorney's office plans to announced charges today.
As they paid at the market on Wednesday, customers said small words of condolence to owner Faysal Warfa, who stood behind the checkout counter. He smiled and thanked them.
Warfa said it would be too painful for him to speak more. His younger brother, Mohamed Abdi Warfa, 30, was among those killed.
The whole family pitched in to reopen the store, including Hassan, who like nearly everyone who works in the store is part of the extended family.
"We feel 100 percent that the police is ready to protect the community and they have shown that," Hassan said. "We just feel 100 percent safe and happy about all the support that we get."
The Seward market, at the corner of East Franklin and 25th avenues, was last open on January 6.
Warfa came by that evening to visit his cousin, Osman Jama Elmi, 28, who was working in the store.
There were also several customers there, including an Ethiopian man named Anwar Salah Mohammed, 31.
Mohammed was buying a phone card about 7:45 p.m. when gunmen entered the store and fatally shot him, Warfa, and Elmi.
"They're so young," Hassan said of the two 17-year-olds in police custody. "I don't know how to explain it but it's real terrible.
"They're wrong and they took young lives," he said. "If you put the whole thing together it makes no sense whatsoever. It just shows you we're losing young people for no reason."
Hassan thinks at least one of the gunmen was involved in a Nov. 22 robbery of the store's upstairs offices.
Thieves took a laptop computer, printer, and a television. They destroyed doors and broke windows.
After that, Hassan nearly doubled the store's number of security cameras to 17.
"When that happened we were concerned," he said. "We reported that and I think the police were still working on that when this happened. I don't know if they're related but I think they are."
Hassan said people in the community know one of the 17-year-olds. He trusts prosecutors are acting as fast as they can, despite the delays in charging them.
"We know they're going to be charged," he said. "We'd rather have them charged quick so we can feel relief, but we're hopeful that it will happen."
On Wednesday a judge granted prosecutors a second extension to file charges against the two boys.
The Hennepin County Attorney's office has until 1:30 this afternoon to file charges.
- Morning Edition, 01/14/2010, 7:25 a.m.