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Attack on store owner was obscene

Published: Sun, April 29, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

It would be a grave injustice to equate the unprovoked beating of the owner of a neighborhood store to the violence visited upon the dregs of society.

Jihad Niser, owner of the Rainbow Red and White Grocery Store on Elm Street, was pistol-whipped during a robbery last Sunday evening. The three thugs were captured on the store’s surveillance camera roughing up Niser and stealing items, including a cigar box behind the counter containing cash for the business. There was about $7,000 in the box.

Niser, like other neighborhood store owners in the city of Youngstown, is a law-abiding citizen who pays taxes — property and income — and provides a service to a segment of the population that more often than not has fallen through the cracks.

These businessmen and -women are often looked upon with disdain because of the perception that they prey upon the vulnerable. And while there are those whose business practices do leave a lot to be desired, most follow the law and take pride in their businesses, sell legitimate products at reasonable prices, and do favors for regular customers who are in dire straits.

Many of the owners have been victims of crime.

Police Detective Sgt. Don Scott was on target when he said that the Niser beating was unnecessary and brutal.

“They did not have to beat him the way they beat him,” Scott said. “They chose to beat him like that.”

Head injury

The storekeeper had seven stitches on his head, according to 21 WFMJ-TV, The Vindicator’s broadcast partner.

The video of the attack has gone national via the Internet. It once again turns the spotlight on the city of Youngstown’s high crime rate.

Police Chief Rod Foley met Thursday with the Greater Valley Grocer’s Association and Wick Park Neighbors Committee to discuss how they could together address the crime problem, according to WFMJ.

“We want to make sure to let them know we are working on it,” the chief said. “We’re trying to determine if there’s one group, two groups [of thugs], or just randomly being done,” Foley said. “And we want to let them [the grocers] know that we’re gonna work with them to try to reduce the likelihood of that happening again.”

The grocer’s association is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the three men who attacked Niser. Crimestoppers is also expected to offer a cash reward.

Niser’s son, Majd, expressed the sentiments of many of the neighborhood store owners when he said, “We are just regular people trying to make a living.”

That fact is lost on the critics of these businesses.

In 2009, some city officials, community leaders and residents all but declared war on the stores, saying they are contributing to the destruction of city.

This writer took exception to the broad-brush approach by Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and the Idora Neighborhood Association.

Here’s what Ian Beniston, MVOC director of policy, and James London, INA president, wrote in response to the contention that many store owners work long hours year in and year out:

“To suggest sympathy for people because they work 12 hours a day 365 days a year to peddle the tools of destruction to a neighborhood is simply ridiculous. Epidemiological studies have clearly linked sales of alcohol to increased crime rates.”

It is not surprising, therefore, that while police Chief Foley was assuring the business owners that his department will do all it can to address the crime situation, Councilwoman Gillam, Beniston and London were no where to be found.

Meeting a need

The attack on Niser does raise a question that has been asked, but not answered, ever since Gillam and others began targeting the neighborhood stores: What will happen to the inner city residents who depend on them for their daily needs if the stores close?

The idea that these shoppers will travel to the full-service grocery outlets is simply ridiculous.

The attack on Jihad Niser was obscene, because it undoubtedly was carried out by individuals who are nothing but leeches. They deserve to be put away for a long time.

In the heyday of the Mafia, had Niser sought the mob’s help, the thugs would be sleeping with the fishes.


1TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Bertram? Are you honestly suggesting the mob would play a helpful role. You who have spent a career bashing such types. Many I know even suggest you even have shown disdain for Italians in general and I believe you have even tied a Catholic education to a lack of ethics. Here you see their methods helpful? Youre truly a raging jerk. I cant believe I am 1 of the 50 people who read you.

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2saddad(655 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Its "sleeps with the fishes". Dead people dont swim.

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3Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

"In the heyday of the Mafia, had Niser sought the mob’s help, the thugs would be swimming with the fishes."

Hardly ever agree with you, but can't argue with you on this. City was 100% safer back then.

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4atek101(77 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I don't think anyone questions that some corner store owners are honest businessmen and women who provide a needed service to Youngstown's neighborhoods, and I don't think there's much debate that others run sub-standard operations that attract criminal activity and and severely violate both health and building codes.

To call community leaders fighting to improve their neighborhoods "critics" or opponents to legitimate corner store business owners demonstrates Bertram's shallow understanding of the issues.

Lumping legitimate owners in with owners who run sub-standard operations as though they are one united group demonstrates his intent to polarize people and sensationalize a complicated issue that instead should be approached with thoughtful and honest dialogue.

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5atek101(77 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

In addition, I think we can all agree that senseless violence against a store owner (or anyone else in our community) should never be tolerated.

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6DwightK(1537 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Bertram, you had a great column going until the very end. I detest references to the mob being benevolent in their dealings. They would have helped Mr. Niser all right, and then they would have extorted protection payments from him while bribing the police to look the other way. We're better off now.

I agree with your premise, though. These store owners pay their taxes and fill a need, regardless of people's opinion of them. Some see them as harmful but if larger stores could stay in business or saw opportunities to expand in these neighborhoods the small liquor / convenience stores would be forced to leave. We'll see what effect the new Bottom Dollar Food stores have on the corner stores.

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7Woody(492 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

My suggestion to Jihad, buy a gun and get training on how to use it.

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8One_Who_Stayed(240 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

"What will happen to the inner city residents who depend on them for their daily needs if the stores close? The idea that these shoppers will travel to the full-service grocery outlets is simply ridiculous."

Well, if their daily needs consist of 40's of Malt Liquor, Lottery Tickets, Blunts, Orange Soda or 1's and 2's of Cigarettes, I'm sure they'd be fine. If, however, they needed nutritional food or any sort of useful household items, they'd be out of luck with or without the Red & White.

There is a reason this area is classified as a "Food Desert". There isn't any. Not an Orange, a Steak or head of Lettuce to be found in these places. Nothing but products that perpetuate the downtrodden life these folk are leading in the first place.

Having said that, no one deserves to be treated like that. These 2 bit thugs need to be shown the same restraint that they showed Mr. Niser. None.

There is a big difference between being critical of the way a store is run or what a store carries and not caring when a neighbor is brutally pistol whipped for NOTHING!

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9Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago


"We're better off now."

You think? IF these 3 pitiful little cockroaches are caught, they'll just get a "slap on the wrist," released and do it all OVER again, and the outcome might not just be stitches and such. Nothing but a revolving door. And you truthfully think were better off?

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10misterlee(118 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Conservatives, always trashing the people who actually try to make the world a better place rather than just complaining about it. You should be ashamed of yourself accusing good people of supporting gang beatings. How are you even employed to write this crap?

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11misterlee(118 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Utica Shale,
Do you even know what these "ACORN types" do for this community? Have you seen any of their projects or met any of the people who's lives have been touched by these groups? Of course you haven't, you live in your happy little home and never get out into reality to see what other people have to go through and how these organizations improve their lives. YNDC has a program that supports responsible home buying, something we could have used before the housing bubble burst. They also run a couple urban farms, something Youngstown is becoming at the forefront of. At these farms they not only grow food but they teach people how to grow their own gardens and make some money with their crops. How is any of this an insidious horrible plot? How are they hurting anyone? You should all be ashamed of your ignorance and misplaced malice.

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12ytown1(398 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

UticaShale = Internet Troll, nuff said.

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13misterlee(118 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I live just south of Idora Park, I was born at St E's and have lived in Youngstown for 24 of my 28 years and in a suburb of Cleveland for the other 4. Don't tell me I don't know this area, you're from Texas and are only here and posting on this site because you want to make money off of our natural resources. You call me a propagandist but a quick look at your comment history shows who the real propagandist is.
I've volunteered with YNDC along with other city residents. You're giving me credit for a lot more power than I possess, I appreciate that, but I'm just a concerned citizen. I'm currently attending YSU finishing up my degree which i have PAID FOR, no loans or scholarships. I drive up Glenwood Ave every day. Many of my friends live in the "hood", I spend a lot of time there. I know many people there and they aren't all awful people. There is something called broken window theory, look it up. When a car with a broken window is left sitting outside, in a rather short amount of time other people with vandalize it. Even in "good" neighborhoods. When neighborhoods are left half empty because of an economic collapse people stop caring. YNDC is trying to make people care again.
Stop with the Freudian BS trying to make me look like an outsider and propagandist. Everyone can clearly see what you're up to.

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14misterlee(118 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Ytown1, you're right. I really shouldn't bother feeding the troll. He's acting like he's from here though and he's said multiple times he's from Texas. I can't stand people like this how can they get off on this?

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15Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

misterlee, the funny thing about people like UticaShale is that he/she accuses you of this: "I love this when the self proclaimed smarties like you try to debate bull that you are taught to say."

But mostly all of UticaShale's words are talking points from his/her political belief system's lingo.

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16misterlee(118 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Do you realize that with this last post you admitted you can't debate intelligently and resorted to namecallIng? You didn't refute anything, you just insulted people. Are you really this mentally lacking? Go back to Texas. We don't need big egos and small brains around here. And the people who do agree with you would probably appreciate you not making them look this bad.

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17VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Ok everyone. Let's look at the bigger picture here. Sniping at each other is not going to do us any good. It only reinforces the image others have about our Valley. Stay above it. You are better than that. Outsiders come and go. They come because of work. They go because of no work. We welcome them to our area because they bring tax dollars and income to spend.

What has happened to Mr. Nizer is a real tragedy, but it is not uncommon in other urban areas of the country, even Texas. This is a burdeon society must bear for the way we allowed our children to be raised and for the way we have overlooked our cities' future far too long.

If we really want to solve our urban plight, we need to keep pressure on our elected officials, on our police, our schools and most of all, on our children. In addition, we must be prepared to pay for our protection and re-birth.

These are tough times and tough ideas to consider, but what other solutions, other than moving do you have?

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18Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

see, misterlee? Uticashale can't see what he's even doing and saying. He's the one just saying what "he's been taught to say" yet accusing others of doing that. He namecalls, can't debate intelligently, insults natives of the region constantly, and patronizes. Big ego/small mind indeed.

It hasn't been since the once famed "Stan" of Vindy forums that someone has appeared with such arrogant bigotry, false logic and right wing self-righteousness. I LOVE seeing UticaShales posts, as they are always so laughable.

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19keepingitreal(25 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Sorry losters, Utica is right. You Youngstown people cannot see the garbage right under your own noses.

Be a doer, not a taker. Utica left home to make a buck. You other people just sit on your butts and take government money or attend school till middle age.

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20SHOCK(7 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago


"the once famed "Stan" of Vindy forums"

I see that Stan had over nine thousand posts. There has been no one in Vindy history who was tolerated for that many posts or even close. What happened to Stan and why isn't he posting anymore?

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21Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

SHOCK, don't know what happened to Stan. Hopefully we can assume that he found the hole he'd crawled out of and returned to the land of the trolls where the likes of him and UticaShale originate.

keepingitreal, "losters"? Sorry. That's not a word in English. Or maybe that's just how frackers spell lobsters?

UticaShale, "one boot on Tigerlillies neck". Can none of you ignoramuses actually spell? Or what? Dumb, dumb, dumb. You're too stupid to actually be evil. That takes purposefulness and awareness of what a person is actually doing. Your boot on my neck? Really? Oh, I didn't realize. *rolls eyes* You are delusional. And probably typing away from the mental hospital. Or at least you should be.

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22SHOCK(7 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago


Thanks for your reply. I see Stan as a dangerous man that could corrupt liberal minds with his ideas. The theme of putting people to work and keeping them out of trouble has far reaching implications. Ridiculing criminals is destructive to the very core of their identity. The ecosystem of political views is delicate and cannot bear such onslaught.

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23southsidedave(5199 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

The comments, as usual, have lost sight of the fact that a man was beaten by thugs in the commission of a robbery. Members of our society are self-centered: "As long as it's not in my backyard."

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