Flint, Mich. — JaJuan Demps, a 41-year-old Flint native was shot in the leg at point-blank range June 14 at the Sunoco gas station on the corner of University Ave. and Grand Traverse St.
According to a statement released by Demps’s attorney, Johnny Hawkins, at approximately 3 a.m., Demps approached the door of the Sunoco convenience store looking to buy a pack of cigarettes. Upon noticing the door was locked, Demps knocked and raised his arms in order to get the attention of an employee vacuuming the shop’s floor.
The statement describes a scene where the employee saw Demps, then went behind the counter and reappeared brandishing a rifle. The rifle then discharged, sending a bullet through the shop’s bullet-proof glass door and into Demps’ right leg.
Demps then drove himself to Hurley Medical Center where he underwent three surgeries in an attempt to save his leg and ability to walk.
According to his attorney, Demps is now back home and undergoing physical therapy in the hopes he’ll be able to walk on the leg again without crutches. Demps lost his fibula, one of the two bones that make up the lower leg and provide support while walking.
The Genesee County Prosecutor’s office has charged the gas station employee with felonious assault, a 4-year felony.
In the statement, Hawkins says he is asking the prosecutor’s office to consider raising the charge to assault with intent to do great bodily harm, a 10-year felony. Hawkins believes the store owner who allowed the presence of a rifle in his store should also be held accountable.
According to the statement, “ Mr. Demps, would like to ask that the presiding Genesee County Prosecutor, Mr. David Leyton, simply reevaluate these matters thoroughly, and do the right thing, as was recently done in the case of George Floyd, and … initiate the most appropriate criminal charges against the franchisee/store owner of that Sunoco Gas Station.”
In the days after the shooting, protesters gathered outside the station, calling for a boycott of the business. The protests were organized by community members and friends of Demps.
On Wednesday, June 24, Samuel Johnson was one of the first people to show up to the boycott. “They shot my best friend, my childhood best friend … what they did is not tolerated. The day they shot him, he was unarmed, he was trying to buy a pack of cigarettes … it’s unacceptable,” Johnson said.
Johnson explained how in his eyes, the context surrounding the shooting is more nuanced and goes beyond just a race-related crime.
“I don’t know if it’s actually race-based, I can’t say that because who knows his intentions. What we can say is there were several complaints about him (station employee) with our people, do you know what I’m saying? He’s threatened other people,” Johnson said. According to Hawkins’s statement, the employee charged in the shooting was Arab. Demps is Black.
By press time the employee’s attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Another employee at the Sunoco station said they were not responding to media requests for comment.
According to Johnson, Flint’s lack of affordable and well-spread-out grocery stores has caused the Sunoco convenience store to become the area’s most accessible shopping place. For those who don’t have a vehicle, the next closest stores are either more than a 10-minute walk away or specialty stores like downtown Flint’s The Local Grocer which specializes in typically more expensive, locally grown produce.
The dependency created by this and other food deserts in Flint, Johnson said, has led the shop owners and his employees to treat customers poorly since they know their business is all but guaranteed.
“It’s a necessity to people in this community because this is the only store for them to go within a two-mile radius,” Johnson said. “We’re Flint. We’re so small nobody cares about this little city … people are tired and fed up.”