Longform

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

Page 6 of 7

It was Muhammad's coronation. For years, he'd been the head of a fringe sect. People dismissed him for his extreme beliefs and slim numbers every time he opened his mouth. Now, he was the voice of the black community.

The NOI got a copy of the speech and uploaded it to YouTube. One supporter, ex-councilwoman Sandra Crenshaw, was so moved she wept when she heard it. Others were disgusted. The moment had exposed Muhammad as what he was: a black supremacist.

"People came up to me and said they thought they were in the presence of the devil," Bond later said. "I felt it, too.

They also felt the presence of a scam. Because as Muhammad spoke, the true story of Marcus Phillips' death was making its rounds.


Five days before Muhammad addressed the Koreans, the Morning News finally jumped into the fray, publishing its first story on the protests. In it, reporter Steve Thompson painted a decidedly different picture of the way Phillips died.

After Phillips asked for his cigarettes, the clerk turned to reach for a pack. That's when Phillips went for his score: not a candy bar, not a few bucks, and not the store's cash drawer. He reached for the entire cash register.

According to the police report, Phillips lifted the register off the counter and turned to run. He was headed out the door when the register's cord, still plugged in, yanked him to a halt. When he turned, the clerk had a shotgun in his hand and told him to get on the ground. He was calling the police. Phillips knelt down.

As the clerk turned to call the police, Phillips jumped up with the register and ran out of the store, ripping the cord loose. The clerk followed, sprinting after Phillips, cradling his shotgun through the morning darkness.

"Stop! Stop!"

When the clerk had just about caught up with Phillips, the thief turned and threw the cash register at the clerk. It hit the ground and broke; the cash drawer fell out. Both men lunged for it, but Phillips was faster. He threw a punch, picked up the drawer, and sprinted across MLK.

The Korean dashed across the four lanes and caught up to Phillips again. Phillips turned and tried to hit the clerk with the cash drawer. The Korean backed up, took one shot into the ground. Phillips, desperate, pressed on, swinging the drawer at the Korean's head twice. When he ducked, Phillips lunged for the gun.

The clerk fired.

It only took one shot. Hot pellets ripped through Phillips' chest. He died on the sidewalk.

When police pulled up, the Korean still held the shotgun. It wasn't Tommy Pak; the owner rarely worked early mornings anymore. He was at home with his wife and daughter.

The case went to a grand jury and was ultimately dropped. Surveillance and multiple eyewitnesses all agreed: The clerk had shot in self-defense.


Not long after Muhammad's racist screed to the Koreans, the United South Dallas Coalition folded. On March 1, the Korean Community Coalition and the Justice Seekers Coalition held a joint press conference to sign a proclamation between the two groups. A new black coalition, comprising of the Justice Seekers, TAFFI and the Peter Johnson Foundation, announced an end to the protests. They started the protests, Ronald Wright reasoned, so they'd end them.

The Koreans and blacks vowed to worship together and form a partnership. Blacks had no businesses in South Dallas; maybe Koreans like Kim could help teach blacks how to be bankable. Koreans had no political influence within the city; black leaders would educate and introduce their Korean counterparts to Dallas politics.

Meanwhile, the black leaders distanced themselves from Muhammad. According to Bond, the NAACP issued a gag order to keep president Juanita Wallace, one of the minister's staunchest allies, from speaking in his support. Councilwoman Davis fell silent, retreating from the media. Johnson denied ever playing a role in the protests. Only Wright fessed up. Asked if Muhammad duped them into protesting, he thought for a second. "He did," he said.

Muhammad, meanwhile, kept protesting. The week after his triumph at the Korean conference, the Don't Stop Don't Shop Facebook page uploaded a generic picture of a large Korean family. Accompanied was a "letter."

"This happy KOREAN family would like to thank black women for giving KOREANS another $16.4 million dollars today," it read. "They also would like thank you for paying their mortgages, buying them the latest Lexus', and preparing their little ones to go to the best colleges. By the way, they said they will never hire blacks and won't give a dime back to your worthless communities. Thank you black woman for hating yourself so much. Your low self esteem is making us very rich. Thank you."

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