The Baltimore Police Department said Wednesday that a hearing on whether to “padlock” a gas station that was the scene of a fatal shooting in December had been postponed, citing scheduling conflicts.
Members of the homicide victim’s family and other community members — who have been calling for the police to shutter the BP Gas Station in Northeast Baltimore as a public nuisance — said no one notified them that Wednesday’s hearing had been cancelled. They held a press conference Wednesday outside police headquarters “to bring attention to the tricks and tactics used ... to deter residents from speaking out publicly about crime,” a press release says.
“Right now, we are on fire, and we cannot postpone anything when it comes to crime in Baltimore City,” said Jamar Day, a nephew of the man killed at the BP station, during Wednesday’s press conference. “Baltimore City continues to play games with its residents and continues to play games with people’s lives.”
Day organized a vigil and rally last month to call for closure of the gas station in the 1500 block of Havenwood Road after his uncle, Albert Stevenson Jr., 56, was shot and killed when he stopped at the station’s store for cigarettes and a soft drink on Dec. 11. This week, Day said he and other members of the community were not notified that Wednesday’s hearing was being rescheduled, and he found out when a Baltimore Sun reporter informed him.
Day, 34, said that before Wednesday morning’s hearing was cancelled, he and others in the community had planned to rally in preparation to enter the hearing as a unit, but without knowing when the event will be, he said it will be extremely difficult to organize people to come to the meeting.
Baltimore Police spokesperson Lindsey Eldridge said the department is working with the business owner and members of the community to reschedule the hearing, which was originally set for Wednesday at 9 a.m. at police headquarters.
All of the parties involved requested to reschedule the hearing due to scheduling conflicts and travel, Eldridge said. Those parties include the business, Baltimore Police, the city housing department and an administrative law judge from the state Office of Administrative Hearings, she said.
Eldridge declined to comment on who generally makes the final decision for rescheduling a public nuisance hearing.
“At this time, we are working with the involved parties to confirm the new date,” she said. “Additionally, Northeast District Commanders have been working with the business and community members to continue collaborative discussions to ensure a safe environment.”
Echoing the concerns voiced by Day, the Greater Northwood Covenant Association — a six-neighborhood organization in northeast Baltimore focused on keeping communities such as Northwood Commons clean and safe — said it was not informed of the changes, either, and the group isn’t sure why the hearing is being rescheduled.
“I don’t have information and have only been contacted by a family member of a victim pretty much asking the same question,” the organization said in a email to The Sun.
According to the public nuisance ordinance, the police commissioner is obligated to inform the business owner of the hearing, and the owner has to post on their premises the notice for the hearing, Eldridge said.
The Northeastern District hosts monthly police commander meetings, and there have been discussions at these meetings with the surrounding community associations, Eldridge said.
Northwood Commons, which has been upgraded with a new Lidl supermarket and other stores and restaurants, is not historically known as a violent area, but the BP gas station on Havenwood Road has become “hotbed” for the community’s violence, Day said.
“I don’t know what it is, but the gas station just invites violence,” said Stevenson’s mother, Darlene Thomas.
Faisal Khan, owner of the Havenwood BP gas station, did not wish to comment on the matter.
Police say at least six events involving violence or the illegal distribution of drugs have unfolded on the BP station property or nearby over the past couple of years, including the fatal shooting of Stevenson on Dec. 11.
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Police said three men attempted to rob a man outside the gas station in February 2021, cutting his arm with a knife. Officers observing what they believed to be drug transactions seized “suspected marijuana” four times and on two occasions also found loaded guns.
Police Department records show there were 81 calls to 911 about the station over a three-month period. The most complaints, 33, were for disorderly people, with 16 calls referring to drugs. The city’s code defines a location as a “public nuisance” if it has been used for criminal activity two or more times within two years.
About 50 people, including relatives of Stevenson, nearby residents and two Baltimore City Council members gathered next to the station on Dec. 17 to light candles for the homicide victim and urge that it be padlocked. Baltimore City Council members Ryan Dorsey, who represents the district, and Odette Ramos, of an adjacent district, are in favor of padlocking the business.
“Drug dealers know they can meet there. Loiterers know they can go there,” Day said of the BP station. “The business has not done their part to make sure the community and customers are safe.”
Despite many businesses facing the criminal element at their doorstep, businesses in Baltimore have only been padlocked three times over the past decade, according to police.
During the same period, there were 18 padlock meetings, and of those meetings, only the aforementioned businesses were padlocked, Eldridge said.
This story has been updated to reflect that the city housing department and an administrative law judge from the state Office of Administrative Hearings, in addition to Baltimore Police and the business, requested that the public nuisance hearing be rescheduled.