City of Albuquerque goes to court to shut down East Central store - Albuquerque Journal

City of Albuquerque goes to court to shut down East Central store

The city is asking a judge to order Adam Food Market be demolished or closed for three years. Police Chief Harold Medina notes that APD responded to 500 calls for service and 117 reports at the location. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

In the wee hours of New Year’s Day, police found 40-year-old Felipe Vigil shot to death in Southeast Albuquerque.

Surveillance video revealed that Vigil was involved in two fights outside Adam Food Market and was running away just prior to the shooting, according to court records cited in previous Journal reporting.

The Albuquerque Police Department cites Vigil’s Jan. 1 death as their sixth homicide investigation at the property in the last 2½ years — more than any other site in the city, APD Chief Harold Medina said in a statement Thursday.

“If that isn’t shocking enough, APD responded to 500 calls and wrote 117 reports during just one year at the business,” Medina added.

Now the city is asking a state judge to order the East Central convenience store demolished at the owner’s expense or to shut it down for three years, saying it is a hotbed of criminal activity and a detriment to the community as a whole.

“Respondents may suffer financially in the closure of Adam Food Market; however, it will reduce criminal activity in the surrounding neighborhood,” the city argued in an amended complaint filed last month in District Court. “Community members are at high risk of injury, death, blight and disinvestment if the Property is allowed to keep operating.”

But the property owner said the city is essentially shifting responsibility for crime and homelessness onto businesses.

Sharif Rabadi said the site is fenced, has 24/7 security cameras, and that the store operator — who rents from him — has offered to provide Albuquerque police rent-free space across the street to run a substation or pay an off-duty officer to help with security.

He said he’s not sure what else they can do, but that adding another vacant property to Central is not going to help.

“You can’t just come and take my building and knock it down and ask me to pay for it. This is not fair,” said Rabadi, who owns the building and the land at 7817 Central NE. “I pay taxes. I’m a good citizen.”

In the complaint filed in 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque, the city argues that Adam Food Market “meets the definition of ‘public nuisance.'” It references 117 police reports tied to the location in a recent one-year period, including 71 documenting “illegal activities” ranging from murder and aggravated assault to drug trafficking and receiving stolen property.

Undercover officers made three fentanyl buys inside the market and two more outside the store during an operation last September, according to the complaint.

The city also argues in its filing that the property is a drain on resources, estimating that police responses to the property amounted to $98,983 worth of officer time in the last year.

Defendants include Rabadi and his tenant, Anna Marie Delgado, the store’s owner.

Delgado’s attorney said she is working on a motion to dismiss the city’s complaint, which she calls “outrageous.” The building is not responsible for crime, she said.

“I think that the city is trying to shirk its responsibility of protecting business owners and people living in the area,” attorney Britany Schaffer said. “You just go down Central and you see every property is being occupied by people who don’t have anywhere else to go, because the city policies are failing.”

The Journal has reported on a number of incidents at the store. In November 2021, police found a man fatally shot in the Adam Food Market parking lot — Albuquerque’s 100th homicide in what turned out to be a record-breaking year. And in January, police alleged a man — who they identified as the store owner — shot at a vehicle, while two other store employees retrieved the casings.

Schaffer said the man was not the owner but an employee.

She said Delgado’s partner at the store has proactively worked with police in an attempt to curb crime, as staff have been victims, too.

Asked about the defendants’ offers to provide police rent-free space nearby or to hire off-duty police, an APD spokesman responded in only general terms.

“The City has been working with the property owners and business management for years. They have gone through the same process as other businesses with nuisance problems. Violent crime and drug trafficking has gotten worse, and we need to take action as quickly as possible to address this threat to public safety,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.

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