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    Shooting victim's wife sells his stores

    Reyna Abu Nawas says operating the two convenience stores was too much for her.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2000


    CLEARWATER -- Reyna Abu Nawas did what she had to do.

    She sold the Betty Lane gas station where her husband was killed last month as well as a second store he owned on Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg.

    "There's not going to be anyone to take care of the store," she said. "So to be free of debt, we sold the stores. But even if we didn't owe anything on them, I would have sold it right away because there are a lot of memories there."

    On July 31, a security camera inside the Spur gas station at 1501 Betty Lane captured someone firing a .25-caliber semiautomatic at Farah Abu Nawas. The 40-year-old father of five died minutes later from the single gunshot to his right front shoulder.

    Police say 15-year-old Juan A. Allen was the shooter. Dexter K. Evans, 16, and Shamel N. Johnson, 17, were with Allen, police said. The three stormed into the station demanding money. They were arrested soon after, according to police.

    A decision on whether the teenagers will be tried as adults or juveniles will be made after the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office completes its investigation.

    Abu Nawas owned a third business, a flower shop, in St. Petersburg called The Flower Connection.

    "This is the only thing that's keeping me going," Mrs. Abu Nawas said. "If I don't open these doors, how would I pay the rent? If (Abu Nawas) were still in my life, he would be here to rescue me."

    The 49-year-old mother of four spends her days coping with the loss of the man store neighbors described as a music lover, a good neighbor and a friend to the neighborhood.

    "He was a really nice guy," said Stephanie Elliott, 24, who lives near the Spur station. "He would do anything for everybody. It's a shame that happened."

    Across the street at the Shop and Save market, Charles Pompey rang up groceries as he said that the incident could have been prevented with more police patrolling.

    He also acknowledged a bigger problem.

    "It used to be that the police had control over the kids that just hung around," he said. "I don't know where they're putting their attention, but you can't just blame what happened on the police. These parents should have more control over their children."

    Daryl Lee, who worked at the Spur station for the past five months, said he was inside the store when the shooting occurred.

    The 44-year-old told police he was mopping the floor when the three youngsters came in. He now says he's thinking about quitting the convenience store business after 23 years, citing safety concerns.

    "You never know what their attitudes will be like," he said. "Most of your really bad attitudes come from the early teenagers. They figure they're just tougher than everybody else."

    Amin Khdeir bought the Spur station from Mrs. Abu Nawas last week and plans to rename it H&A Food Mart.

    Although he did not know Farah Abu Nawas, Khdeir said he views the tragedy as God's will.

    "This makes me feel so sad," he said. "But it's God who says what's going to happen. I look at it as God took him so I could have a chance."

    Khdeir found Farah's Alvarez guitar in the back of the store shortly after he moved in, and he kept it.

    But not to play the instrument.

    "I never knew him, but from what people tell me he was very good to the people here," he said. "I'm going to hang this up somewhere in the middle of the store as a way to let the people who come here remember him."

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