Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

Police: Clearwater store owner sold bread, milk, drugs

CLEARWATER — There was no note, no sign on the convenience store's doors. Just rusty chains and a padlock told customers the Greenwood Food Market, a usually bustling North Greenwood neighborhood hangout, was closed Thursday afternoon.

Owner Junn Yang Lai, described by friends as nice and generous, was arrested Wednesday, accused of peddling drugs from behind the store's counter.

Lai, 55, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on felony charges of possession of cocaine and marijuana with intent to sell, possession of morphine and possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony.

The Palm Harbor resident had no previous criminal record in Florida. Years ago, state records show, he ran a Chinese restaurant in Jacksonville.

Lai left jail Thursday after posting bail of about $27,000. He did not return a phone call Thursday from the Tampa Bay Times.

Overnight, someone shuttered his store at 1205 N Martin Luther King Ave.

After receiving a tip, officers searched the food mart Wednesday and seized 77 grams of marijuana packaged for sale, two grams of crack cocaine and a morphine pill, police said.

Lai's store is beige and nondescript except for a hand-painted sign: Bread. Milk. Beer. People walked up to the chained doors Thursday, shook their heads, laughed. One biker yelled to onlookers, referencing Lei's arrest, "He got jammed up!"

Hermiia Cobb, 11, saw police cars flood her block on La Salle Street, a short walk from the shop, around 5 p.m. Wednesday. Her friend snapped photos and put them on Facebook.

"I go there, like, five times a day for sunflower seeds and peanuts," she said. "He's okay, I guess. Pretty nice."

Devant Jeter, 10, biked by the store Thursday with his big sister. He also lives on La Salle Street, he said, and visits Lei for candy after school.

"Junn's real nice. He gives me Mike and Ikes for free," Devant said. "This is stunning. Now we've got to shop somewhere else."

Cheryl Usery, who lives across the street, shopped there Wednesday, hours before the arrest, for penny wrappers. Nothing seemed unusual, she said. The owner didn't seem tense. He was smiling, chatting with regular customers.

"He was always friendly," said Usery, 59. "It isn't fair. Don't be so hard on him. Everybody in the 'hood loves him."

Times researchers Carolyn Edds and Cairyn Baird contributed to this report. Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224.

Comments

Deputies: 18-year-old speeding on U.S. 19 rear-ended car, faces charges of DUI, fleeing scene

PALM HARBOR — A speeding teenager on U.S. 19 refused to stop for deputies and took off, later rear-ending a car and injuring three adults early Sunday morning, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.A little after 1:30 a.m., Kingzig Montan...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

A woman sailing on a Carnival Cruise Line ship from Jacksonville fell from her cabin’s balcony and died Friday.Doral-based Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Vance Gulliksen confirmed the death Saturday, saying in a statement that the incident occurred e...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost th...
Published: 01/20/18

Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Published: 01/20/18

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Published: 01/20/18

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Published: 01/20/18

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Published: 01/19/18

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Published: 01/19/18
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Published: 01/19/18
Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

When former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in November, he had amphetamines, morphine and the sleep aid zolpidem in his system, according to an autopsy report. Halladay, 40, died from blunt force trauma with drownin...
Published: 01/19/18