Store owner stays open despite alleged hate crimes against business
FORT MYERS, Fla. – A man has not been arrested after two local business owners say he committed hate crimes at their stores, targeting them for their religion.
Both Md Bakhtier Rahman of Halal Meat & Grocery on Cleveland Avenue and Omar Rabbo of Too Cute Beauty Supply and Sahara Meats and Groceries on Jefferson Avenue reported that a man entered their stores and made threats to their safety.
Rahman told the Fort Myers Police Department that on June 26 around 5:30 p.m. a man approached him inside his store and said that he needed to close or else. According to Rahman’s police report, the man told him that four men would kill everyone in the store if the warning wasn’t heeded.
Before the man left, he told Rahman that he had thrown a rock through the front door a little over two weeks earlier in an attempt to scare him, according to the police report.
Two weeks later, police responded on July 9 around 4:30 p.m. to Rabbo’s store where a man approached him and said he spoke on behalf of the neighborhood.
“He came straight up to tell me: ‘You the owner?’ I said ‘Yes, I am the owner.’ He said ‘I am from the Good Temple and I’m here to talk. I’m representing the community here. We don’t need no halal stores in the area,'” Rabbo said.
Halal food is similar to kosher products for the Jewish faith: they are foods that meet requirements defined in the holy book of Islam, the Koran.
Rabbo said the man then mentioned the terrorist attack in Orlando before telling him he’d better close.
“‘After what happened in Orlando, we’re not going to allow that to happen again,'” the man said, according to Rabbo. “‘That’s not going to happen again. For your safety, your family’s safety, we don’t need you to be around here. You got two months to go.'”
Too Cute Beauty Supply co-owner Dina Abedrabbo said the Orlando shooter does not represent her religion; she was upset by the tragedy, too.
“People got angry because of what happened and we ourselves got angry, too. We don’t like what happened,” Abedrabbo said, “People like those people, they don’t represent Muslims. They’re attacking Muslims, too.”
She said she believes the man who threatened her business was crazy.
An officer noted the similarities in both incidents, which included threats against businesses owned by Muslim individuals, matching suspect descriptions, matching vehicle descriptions, and multiple reports of thrown objects. While across the street, completing his incident report, that officer noticed a car that matched the description. He stopped the driver and asked whether the driver had been at either of the store locations.
Rabbo and his store manager were called to the scene of the traffic stop and identified the driver, who had been in Rabbo’s store less than an hour before. The man was issued trespassing citations, photographed and his car description was noted. He was then released.
Rabbo is outraged.
“I said really? He threatened me. We had him in the camera and you can’t arrest him?” Rabbo said. “At least arrest him for one day. Let him go! At least one night let me get my smile back. Let me know that I’m safe here.”
FMPD retracted the name, description, vehicle tag number, and statements made by the alleged aggressor in the police report provided to WINK News. The man was not arrested because police did not have enough evidence, Rabbo said.
The two store owners have had opposite reactions to the incidents. Rahman told police he was shaken by the incident and wants to relocate his business immediately. Rabbo said that saddens him, but that he won’t be intimidated.
“People like that, they’re not going to scare us. We’re here for 26 years,” Rabbo said. “I love America more than anywhere else and I fight for my way of living, not run away from my way of living.”