Police say the Harlem smoke shop where a shooter was seen on film Sunday killing an adversary had been raided and closed for illegally selling marijuana only weeks before.
Details about the establishment surfaced Monday as video of the brutal killing went viral, and the New York Sheriff’s Office began a crackdown on illicit pot shops in the area just north of the Malcolm X Boulevard crime site.
One of the stores that were hit on Monday was called Ock Nation Exotic, and it was situated close to a charter school for preschoolers.
After she picked up her daughter from Harlem Children’s Zone, a mother named Sunny Gonzalez, 33, told The Post, “There are kids coming back from recess and a bunch of police outside.” The presence of both her and the police in this area of Harlem makes me feel uneasy.
A swarm of law enforcement officers searched the Ock Nation, with some of them counting money and others emptying plastic bags that contained what seemed to be marijuana.
Within the store, the officers had their detained suspect sitting next to around six trash cans full of merchandise.
Gonzalez characterized the issue as “a concern in this neighborhood.” The situation is identical around the corner.
Fears were already high in the community before the shooting on Easter Sunday at the other smoke store.
The shooter was seen on tape having a conversation with his 36-year-old victim inside the store at around 8 p.m., and the NYPD is still on the hunt for him. Police say the two got into an argument before the victim tried to leave, but the footage doesn’t show this.
The shooter then draws a pistol, calmly points it at the victim’s back, and fires.
The victim had fallen but was making an effort to get up. The gunman casually strolled over, fired another round into the man’s back, and then walked away.
The savage murder is only the latest incident in a string of thefts, shootings, and other acts of violence that have erupted at the city’s around 1,500 illegal, unregulated smoke shops.
A tobacco shop in Queens was robbed on December 3; a worker was injured in a shooting on Manhattan’s Lower East Side on January 4; and a man was shot and killed at a Harlem smoke shop near the busy junction of 125th Street and Fifth Avenue in February.
A 20-year-old tobacco shop employee in Queens was shot and died in March during an attempted robbery.
A Queen’s police officer had said, “It’s the same narrative,” to The Post. “They loot the stores because they deal in cash and drugs; it’s a win-win situation.”
Currently, the city has only three sanctioned marijuana dispensaries.
Many who advocate for a stricter crackdown on illegal firms argue that the danger of getting caught is more than justified by the potential profits of running an illegal business.
Councilman Bob Holden stated in a statement released on Monday that the increase in violent crime is “very disturbing” and that the spread of these illegal enterprises threatens the quality of life for locals.
Holden remarked, “Our State government continues to disappoint us.” “We need to use some common sense again, and we need to move quickly to stop these risky businesses from continuing,”
Authorities had previously raided the Harlem store where the guy was killed on March 8 and seized marijuana and vape goods for illegal sale, according to police sources.
The Sheriff’s Office issued a statement confirming their raid that day and the seizure of illegal tobacco goods, cannabis, THC products, treats, and prescription medicines.
The clerk at the store was taken into custody, and the company received multiple civil infractions, the statement stated.
The young employee reportedly informed authorities that he was forced to work there by his family and that he had no idea the goods were being sold illegally.
According to reliable sources, the shop temporarily closed but quickly reopened.
It is possible for the city’s Department of Consumer and Labor Protection to permanently close such enterprises, especially for repeat offenders, but the procedure is lengthy, and the stores may simply modify their articles of incorporation and reopen as something else, according to sources.
The Harlem smoke shop reopened the day after the shooting and was selling merchandise via a window on Monday afternoon, however, it was unclear if any of the items being sold were prohibited.
An elderly gentleman purchasing a pack of loose cigarettes mentioned that they did, in fact, offer marijuana, albeit at a high price. There’s a better deal around the corner.