Hines kept out of trouble and built City Beats into a thriving business on retail-starved Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, selling the latest styles from New Balance, Timberland and Nike, even though the store was hit by a string of burglaries and holdups.
But now Hines, 40, is back behind bars, awaiting sentencing on felony gun charges after police found a loaded shotgun his sister-in-law had stashed inside his shop for protection.
The conviction has Hines, his wife and neighboring business owners frustrated. They complain that dozens of gun-related crimes in the area go unsolved, while an otherwise upstanding entrepreneur faces three years in prison.
“Most of the stores on the avenue have guns in them,” Hines said this month from inside the D.C. jail. “That’s the way it is on MLK.”
Hines, as a twice-convicted felon, is prohibited by federal law from owning a firearm. Still, shop owners say, a review of crime statistics in the area around City Beats makes it clear why a business owner might want to be armed.
The police service area has seen more than 110 gun crimes in the past year, including robberies, assaults and killings. The commercial stretch of MLK Jr. Avenue where the shop sits has seen 15 gun crimes in the past year, including the Oct. 17 slaying of a gas station attendant.
The business owners who have endured the violence — up about 10 percent in the area over the same period the previous year — said that police protection has been inadequate and that they understand why those running a cash-heavy business such as City Beats would arm themselves.
“We need protection,” said Hamdu Mukhtar, 33, who has run a pair of King Gas Convenience stations across the street from City Beats for more than two years.
His brother, Mohammed Mukhtar Abduselam, was working after his shift had ended to help stock chips and drinks the evening of Oct. 17. Two men walked into the store. Friends say Abduselam, 32, saw that one of them had a gun and went outside to call 911. One of the men followed and shot him dead.
Cmdr. Joel Maupin, who heads the D.C. police department’s 7th District, said he has moved to put more police on foot patrol in the area, both on the commercial blocks and in the area around the Congress Heights Metro station, which has recently experienced a spate of muggings.
Mukhtar said that after his brother was killed, about 10 gas workers at his two stations quit rather than risk their lives. Teenagers or youths — some as young as 12, Mukhtar said — regularly bring guns into the store and flash them to intimidate employees.
“Maybe we must sell the shop or move,” Mukhtar said. “My brother is gone for nothing.” He said police have told him they have a suspect, but no arrest has been made.