Community members are up in arms in southeast Houston, demanding justice for a 21-year-old man who was shot by a store clerk during an altercation Monday night. What happened? The young man punched the clerk in the face.
According to KHOU news, Alexander Calloway and his two cousins were trying to enter a gas station at 3:30 a.m., but the store was locked. The young men got into an argument with the clerk, Akrem Azzam, through the bulletproof exterior counter. Azzam eventually unlocked the door to speak with Calloway, which was admittedly unwise. Still, that’s no excuse for what happened next.
Azzam confronted Calloway, the two getting chest to chest, apparently arguing (in the video it looks like Calloway was the aggressor). Calloway reached back and hit Azzam in the face, and in turn Azzam pointed his handgun at Calloway and shot him in the belly.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So, what is surveillance footage worth? Probably a “not guilty” verdict.
Calloway's cousins then rushed him over to a nearby firehouse where they waited for an ambulance. He was brought to a hospital where was said to be in critical condition.
Azzam later told police that after he shot Calloway, one of Calloway’s cousins approached the store and opened fire though the security window. The store clerk was not hit. Police said that man was arrested and is facing aggravated assault charges.
Shortly after the initial story hit the airwaves the community decided to stage a protest, demanding that the store clerk be brought to justice. They enlisted the aid of local activist Quanell X, who said, “[Azzam] got the gun and came outside because he was looking for a confrontation. I don’t understand why the Houston Police Department did not arrest this store clerk. I don’t understand why the Houston Police Department does not have him locked up in jail right now.”
Unfortunately, the protesters didn’t have access to the surveillance footage at the time of the protest. After watching the video, it’s not very surprising that police decided not to charge Azzam.
Calloway’s father told reporters, “I’m just hurt. He didn’t have to shoot my son.”
Pulling the trigger after one punch was a bit drastic, but it’s important to remember the context surrounding the fight. If you assault a convenience store clerk in the wee hours of the morning, he has every reason to assume that his life is in danger. In fact, Azzam was shot in the leg during a previous attempted robbery last year. (In addition, he also fired his weapon before. The first time at his half sister and her friend after he said they threatened him.)
However, the surveillance video hasn’t slowed down the protesters. They have promised to stage another protest if Azzam is not charged. Quanell X has also promised that the convenience store will face repercussions from the community. "So let the owner know that there are going to be problems. What happened here should not have happened," he said.
George Hlaiheo, the store owner, stood by his employee’s actions, but not enough to let him keep his job. “For the sake of the community, we feel very strongly that he won’t be coming back to work,” he said. That sounds suspiciously similar to “I don’t want to lose business, so I fired him.”
So, what do our readers think? Do the protesters have a justifiable cause, or does the surveillance footage pretty much squash any hope of convicting the store clerk? Did the gun owner do the right thing?