Gautier convenience store shut down on drug suspicion

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - It was an early closure for the K and A Convenience Store Friday afternoon. Officials covered payphones and posted signs, announcing the store won't reopen for at least another week, and could possibly remain closed permanently.

"Basically we felt like as a result of [an] ongoing investigation for the last couple of months, we felt that illegal activities have been occuring here," said District Attorney Tony Lawrence.  "And we felt like this is a safe haven for drug activities."

Lawrence requested in Jackson County Chancery Court that the troublesome property be shut down. Judge Jaye Bradley granted that request Friday, after investigators testified a Thursday night search led to some serious findings.

Investigators said when they executed the search warrant at the K and A Convenience Store Thursday night, they found 5 customers, cocaine, $2,000 in people's pockets, and other paraphernalia. The store has been shut down in civil court, but they say the criminal investigation is ongoing.

"We've done an investigation, including two different agencies," said Lawrence. "And they've done a very good job, an exhaustive job, and there will probably be criminal charges coming as a result of that."

K and A's owner, Than Nguyen, was informed of the court's decision Friday.  Detective Captain Jason Pugh of the Gautier Police Department's Criminal Investigation's Division said the property has caused problems for years.

"Nuisance calls, complaints, drug activity, fights- it's been an ongoing problem," Pugh said.  "Narcotics task force and district attorney have worked really hard with some undercover operations to try to get this place shut down."

The chancery court will decide whether to make the closure permanent.  A preliminary hearing is set for Friday, June 12th.

"This should serve as a notice that we will not tolerate business and property owners who are continually allowing illegal drug activity in our community and I will continue to take any legally authorized steps to combat the ongoing drug problem," Lawrence said of the closure in a press release.

The criminal investigation continues.

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