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A University Avenue BP is tormenting neighbors, pissing off police

On some nights after bar close, as many as 100 people will congregate in the parking lot, dancing, drinking, and smoking weed.

On some nights after bar close, as many as 100 people will congregate in the parking lot, dancing, drinking, and smoking weed. Getty Images

The BP station at the corner of University and Hamline Avenues is not what you want abutting a residential neighborhood.

At 4 a.m. on a June morn, 22-year-old Dajuon Johnson was shot in the neck at the gas pumps. He later died at Region's Hospital. No one has been charged. Nor would he be the first to be fired upon at the store in St. Paul's Midway.

Police have been repeatedly summoned to calls of shots fired. In one case last year, the cops arrived to find a security guard looking under cars with a flashlight, presumably for spent shell casings. Though police were responding to a reported shooting in the parking lot, the guard denied that anything happened. He then clocked out and left, according to the Pioneer Press.

Such reluctance to assist police is a recurring motif. In another case involving a stolen wallet, a sergeant repeatedly called the station to get its surveillance tape. On each call, employees hung up as soon as she identified herself. Months later, she's still waiting for the video.

The BP plays a much more convivial host to its customers, however. On some nights after bar close, as many as 100 people will congregate in the parking lot, dancing, drinking, and smoking weed. The St. Paul PD has called it a “hotbed for criminal activity.” And crime is only part of the problem.

To hear city inspectors tell it, the store is also a poster child for business violations. It's been caught illegally selling loosies and tobacco to minors. The grounds are often littered, with dumpsters overflowing. A broken fence awaited children's feet with nails pointed upward.

“I’ve been in my house almost 20 years now, and that BP has been a thorn in our side the whole time,” Dan Buck, a leader of the Midway-Hamline neighborhood group, told the Pioneer Press.

“Some of it is smaller quality-of-life issues, such as litter. But you’ve got a business owner who is complicit. When you’ve got 20 people hanging out at your parking lot at 2 a.m. beating people—which is on YouTube—they’re complicit in this activity. People shouldn’t be scared to live in our neighborhood. I love the Midway.”

That owner is Khaled Aloul of Bloomington, who's something of a minor convenience-store mogul, with places in Chanhassen, Plymouth, and St. Paul's East Side. But he may not have his University shop much longer.

City inspectors have cited him for repeatedly violating St. Paul's ban on flavored tobacco, which can only be sold at tobacco stores. This wouldn't normally be much of a sin. But since Aloul is accused of so much more, and seems so unwilling to help police in greater matters, the city is moving to revoke both his gas station and tobacco license, effectively putting him out of business.

As you may have guessed, Aloul sees himself as the victim.

“I am not responsible for crimes that happen outside,” he told the Pioneer Press. “What am I going to do, carry a gun and shoot people? The police, it’s their job.”