Longform

How a Battle Over a Korean-Owned Kwik Stop Divided, Then United, South Dallas

Page 4 of 7

Muhammad claimed to be disciplining the kids, but the authorities saw it differently. He and four of his followers were indicted for aggravated kidnapping.

It's the sort of incident that might scare off more mainstream activists — but it happened almost 20 years ago. Still, throughout his effort to rally South Dallas, he dropped hints alluding to his ultimate ambition.

"Our enemy has done a very good job teaching others," Muhammad said on a radio show during the protests. "Those who originally oppressed us in this country have done a very good job teaching others who come to this country, like the Asian and Koreans in particular, how to divide and conquer us."

It's a view he's careful not to share with the "white media." Muhammad kicked the Observer out of a meeting about the boycott when he realized that the reporter, although black, didn't work for a black-owned newspaper. And after initially agreeing to an interview, he later refused to speak with the reporter.

"You serve a news organ that has attacks everyone who stands up for black and poor people," he eventually told the reporter in an email. "You know your intentions better than any, but you are still a tool in the hand of the enemy of the rise of our community. I know who you really are, and it's not what you are being used for. More importantly, I know my enemy very well. He happens to be your enemy and you will soon see it for yourself, if you don't already."

Meanwhile, on went the protests. And if Dallas wasn't already convinced of the protesters' cause, a man named Arthur Carpenter approached the Nation of Islam with a story that would help seal the deal.

Two days after the press conference, Carpenter said, he ran out of gas down the road and walked into the store with a 5-quart oil jug to fill. Pak said it was an illegal container; he wouldn't let him use the pump.

After an exchange, an onlooker volunteered his gas can, so Carpenter walked outside to fill up. He went to a pump, out of Pak's sight, and started to pump gas. Pak leaned outside the front door and yelled for him to switch. Frustrated, Carpenter slammed the gas nozzle back into the holster. Pak says the customer broke it.

Pak was furious. The gas nozzles cost $400 each, and he replaced that nozzle the previous week. He stormed outside. One of his clerks grabbed the can of Mace from behind the counter and followed Pak out.

Pak says when he approached, Carpenter pushed him. Pak pushed him back, hard. According to Pak, the man reached into his pocket and threatened the owner.

"I'm gonna cut you up!"

The clerk reacted before Pak, Macing Carpenter. Carpenter says that Pak Tasered him and sucker-punched him when he hit the ground. The owner's version of events is even more horrific.

He says that after Carpenter was Maced, Pak was still scared. So he swung, connected with Carpenter's face, dropped him. Blind and stunned, Carpenter collapsed. Pak then reared back and kicked him in the face.

Carpenter looked to be out cold, but by the time Pak and his clerk retreated to the store to call the cops, Carpenter had stumbled off. The next time they saw him, he was in the front of the store. His right eye was black, the eyeball was bloody from burst vessels and he was in a neck brace. He held a sign:

"STOP Don't Shop. Racist."

Nation of Islam members interviewed him on tape, finalized the official name of the protest ("Don't Stop Don't Shop"), and had a 15-minute promotional video up on New Year's Day.

Muhammad's plan was falling into place. Observer columnist Jim Schutze showed up with a video camera and taped Pak's newly hired lawyer issuing a flurry of no comments, fueling animosity toward Pak. Muhammad went to City Hall and retold the story of Phillips' murder.

"A man was killed in the store who was chased down the street from the store. And this is something that has re-emerged as a result of the protest." He didn't mention that it was he who re-emerged it. "The man was shot in the back, and we're still waiting for information from our councilperson, who is looking into it." Davis voiced her support.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Greg Howard