Following reported gunfire at party store, Ypsilanti residents express frustration and anger to city council
Midtown residents are demanding the City of Ypsilanti take action to close a neighborhood party store following a burst of gunfire early Monday evening. Around a dozen residents expressed frustration and anger during city council’s Tuesday meeting over what they said was the city’s failure to address years of issues at the store.
An unidentified suspect fired semi-automatic rounds near Brandy’s Liquor Shop at Michigan Avenue and South Summit Street on Monday evening. Residents said the incident is only one of many over the last 10 years. Residents allege open drug dealing, fights, gunfire and prostitution have occurred near the store, some on vacant property nearby.
In response, city council passed a resolution requesting the Michigan Liquor Control Commission revoke the owners’ license and vowed swift action.
Andy Claydon, who lives on Summit Street across the street from Brandy’s, said he was mowing his lawn Monday evening when he heard what he thought was “extremely loud firecrackers” and saw a car speeding out of the parking lot.
He said he then heard more bursts of what he assumed were firecrackers as the car sped away. No one was running and two young girls casually walked around the corner from the store, Claydon said, reinforcing his assumption that the noise was only firecrackers. He said he was shocked to discover gun shells on the ground when the Ypsilanti Police arrived.
All of the residents who spoke at the meeting said they have endured issues stemming from the party store for too long and said their welfare is threatened.
“Unfortunately, I’m kind of used to the sound of guns shooting,” Claydon told council.
“I’m mad as hell,” said developer and Summit Street resident Eric Maurer. “I have to hold everyone here accountable because we’ve tried to close down that place down.”
In addition to the issues at the party store, a vacant home sits next door. Claydon said the home exacerbates problems at the store. Claydon said he believes an abandoned van on the property is being used regularly for prostitution, and each time the van is sealed, it is broken into again.
City Attorney John Barr said the city took the party store’s owners to court in 2008 and that case ended in a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge ordering the owners to address crime issues and work with the community. A timeline on meeting the requirements of that order extended into 2010, Barr said, and the city was aware those deadlines and requirements weren’t being met last year.
As the city was preparing to re-initiate legal action, Barr said, the Michigan State Police and Ypsilanti Police were working on an undercover operation targeting the property. Because police officials feared the added attention of a lawsuit could jeopardize the undercover operation, legal action was delayed.
A raid following the operation resulted in several arrests and the store was closed down for a week, which several residents said was the most peaceful week they’ve experienced living in Ypsilanti. A judge subsequently reopened the 2008 case, Barr said. He said the additional information and affidavits from residents would bolster the city’s case.
“We are concerned and will take immediate action on this,” Barr said.
Ypsilanti Police Chief Amy Walker said police personnel make themselves as visible as possible around the store and respond to all calls and complaints they receive about Brandy’s. The investigation into Monday’s gunfire was hindered by video cameras at the store not working.
Council member Lois Richardson said she has always been in favor of closing the party store, even when other council members opposed the idea in favor of a deal in 2008. The store is in Ward 1, which Richardson represents. Council Member Ricky Jefferson, also a Ward 1 representative, said he wants to do what is possible to close the store.
“You all should be outraged,” he told the midtown residents.
Amanda Edmonds is the executive director at Growing Hope, which is an urban farm located next door to Brandy’s on Michigan Ave. She said Growing Hope’s staff has witnessed drug deals before 10 a.m., and she outlined several measures the city could take to close down the party store.
“There are a lot of strategies available and we need to up this game, because we can’t have this happening anymore,” she said.
Karen Maurer, developer and wife of Eric Maurer, said she feared for her children’s safety and expressed deep frustration with the ongoing problems.
“I’ve done a lot for this city, but I’m to the point that I’m tired of it,” she said. “I’m tired of defending the city when there are 20 gunshots down the block and I have four children playing on my lawn.”
Nanci Nanney said she was in her home when she heard the gunfire and she had to get one of her children away from the window.
“This is unreasonable,” she said. “You have to act. What is it going to take? Do one of our children need to die? Do one of us need to end up in the hospital? Do we have to have holes in the wall before you act?”
Claydon said he was frustrated the store's video cameras weren’t on.
“I have no problem with Brandy's itself,” Claydon said. “I go there all the time. It’s the walls of people hanging out in the parking lot that's the problem. I've seen fights break out in the store, but not as often as in the parking lot.
“We'll see what the city does about it. The one week it was shut down was the quietest week we've ever spent at our house.”