Store reopens at Wilmington corner where six were shot; for now, it’s more peaceful

\Wilmington’s police chief shut down Bill’s Deli Market after six were wounded. Days later, they reopened. Some in the neighborhood say the climate has improved.

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Nasraddin Asramat, who runs the cash register at Bill’s Deli Market, said crowds have thinned since the store resumed business. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Nasraddin Asramat, who runs the cash register at Bill’s Deli Market, said crowds have thinned since the store resumed business. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

The shooting of six people outside a corner store in Wilmington last month has renewed concerns about gun violence in Delaware’s largest city.

The violence also generated new complaints that the store bears some responsibility, leading authorities to shut it down.

Bill’s Deli Market has since been allowed to reopen, but many wonder whether the corner of 10th and Pine streets is any safer.

The wounding of six in one spray of gunfire constitutes the most victims in a single incident since at least 2000, city officials said. They acknowledged it could be even longer than that but said records containing such information could  not immediately be researched.

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None of the April 7 victims sustained life-threatening injuries, but the sheer number of victims undercut the city’s pride in the fact that shootings fell by nearly 60 percent in 2018 compared with the previous year.

Joseph Brown, 27, who lives in the East Side neighborhood and works at a car wash, said he knew the victims, and that most had been shot in the legs.

Joseph Brown said the climate around 10th and Pine streets is better since Bill’s Deli Market reopened. He said the eight-day shutdown mandated by the city was a “blessing in disguise.” (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Inside the store, he said the climate has improved since Police Chief Robert Tracy lifted the emergency closing order on April 16 – eight days after Bill’s Market was shut down.

“Honestly, it was OK to cool down for a couple days,’’ Brown said.  “It got everybody humbled again. Let us know that we can’t take anything for granted.”

Brown said he’s optimistic that peace will prevail.

“Ever since it opened back up, there hasn’t been any problems,” he said. “We have a closer relationship with the store owners. More people are involved with each other just because of that situation. It was a blessing in disguise.”

Police cited a slew of city code and health violations when Tracy ordered the emergency closure. He said a meeting with the owner was productive and “no loitering” signs had been installed.

“We look forward to working with the store owner and managers to ensure that the nuisances and criminal activity at that location are abated,” Tracy said in a news release. “We all have a shared responsibility to ensure that quality-of-life concerns can be quickly resolved and that such concerns do not pose a threat to public safety.”

Nasraddin Alsamat, who runs the store’s cash register, said the crowds have thinned and customers have been more cooperative about not loitering.

“Everybody outside is nice and quiet,’’ Alsamat said from behind the counter while a few customers came and went after making purchases. “Everything is good. Besides, the cops be out there all the whole time. They be saving the community.”

In the nearly three weeks since the store reopened, police answered 16 calls about the location,  primarily for issues such as loitering or disorderly conduct, but “we have not had any major incidents,’’ city police spokesman David Karas said.

But City Councilwoman Zanthia Oliver, who represents the area and pushed Mayor Mike Purzycki and Tracy to shut it down, isn’t convinced. She drove by one recent night and saw police dispersing loiterers.

“I saw the cops with the lights on. I asked him what was going on and he said, ‘Crowd as usual and trying to get rid of it,’” Oliver said. “I just think something bad is going to happen over there eventually again.”

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