WEST PERRINE — During a moment of intensely silent reflection, Rubye Mosley reaches for her cell phone to take a call. After a brief exchange of greetings, Mosley decides not to tear herself away from the immediate difficult task at hand.
“I am at the grave yard,” Mosley says to the caller. “I’ll get back to you later.”
For the past eight months, trips to Dade South Memorial Park have been routine for Mosley, who visits her son’s grave each week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – the days she takes off from the soul food kitchen she owns in West Perrine.
The irony is not lost on Mosley that her son, Akil LaRue Oliver, had done the re-pavement work on the parking lot of a convenience store where he lay dying on Nov. 18.
“It’s not that I can’t get over losing a son,” Mosley, 55, said. “I can’t get over the way that I lost him. It’s not that he died but how he died.”
How he died and the fate of the person charged in his death was to be the subject of a July 15 hearing at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. But Miami Dade State Prosecutor David Gilbert said the case has been continued to allow more time for investigation. A new court date is scheduled in early November.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m dumbfounded and disappointed,” Mosley said after learning about the rescheduled hearing.
It was a wrench in a series of challenges for Mosley that began with the death of her son at the Quick Shop Food Store, 9720 SW 168th St. in the South Miami-Dade community of West Perrine.
Two of the family-owned store’s attendants have been charged in the death: Nabil Sulaiman, 19 at the time of the incident, allegedly beat Oliver, 34, with a glass bottle. He was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. His elder brother, Ragheb Sulaiman, then 24, allegedly continued beating Oliver, using a crowbar. He was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree murder with a deadly weapon.
The events unfolded shortly before 5:45 p.m., according to a police arrest affidavit that includes some witnesses’ reports that Oliver, 34, was upset with the store owner because he thought the owner owed him money related to his purchase of a $5.79 pack of cigarettes. The dispute was over change that Oliver allegedly owed the store: seven cents.
Following a heated exchange of words, Oliver left the store but quickly returned. This time an off-duty corrections officer, who was a customer in the store, tried to get Oliver to leave. The Sulaiman brothers allegedly began beating Oliver, first inside the store and then into the parking lot, where he died.
The store’s security tape of the beating has been viewed by family members and community supporters but not by his mother.
“I couldn’t bring myself to see the tape and I don’t know that I ever will,” said Mosley, who declined on the advice of the family’s attorney, H.T. Smith, to discuss the details of the case.
Others who have seen the tape said they were shocked by what they call a senseless death.
“At any point they could have refrained from attacking him,” said the Rev. Joseph Turner, one of about six ministers who have given spiritual support and leadership to an organized community protest seeking to boycott the store and eventually close it.
“The tape shows a case of anger and sheer violence,” said Turner, pastor of Mount Moriah Baptist Church in West Perrine, where Mosley is a member.
“For me, it was an injustice committed,” said Nadine McMillon, coordinator of the South Dade Boycott for Change, a group now spearheading a boycott of the Quick Stop store.
“I saw the video. It was dramatic for me,” McMillon continued. “They got him down and kept beating him. I thought this could have been my daughter’s husband; it could have been my husband.”
Community support for Oliver’s family began immediately after his death, McMillon said. The protest has been in the hands of different organizers with demonstrations ranging from daily sun-up to sundown boycotts outside of the store to a recent protest march that paraded throughout the neighborhood and ended outside the store. Participants represent a range of supporters, including clergy and their congregants, two motorcycle groups and members of the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP.
Oliver’s death was like the final straw that prompted the black community to respond to longstanding hard feelings between the Middle East owners of convenience stores throughout South Miami-Dade and the black customers who patronize their businesses.
At a recent meeting of the boycott committee, some members related experiences they and other blacks have had at the stores. Complaints against Quick Stop ranged from overpricing of products to allegations that store owners gave customers cash for food stamps to a blatant show of disrespect and sexual advances from male store attendants toward young black females.
“We have to regain our respect as a people to know that we do not have to be treated any kind of way. They should not be allowed to be in our area,” McMillon said.
Of particular concern to community leaders is the disappearance of Nabil Sulaiman, the younger brother who was charged with aggravated battery and released on bond. He fled the country before his arraignment.
Jorge Viera, one of the attorneys representing the Sulaiman brothers, said efforts are under way to bring Nabil Sulaiman back to Miami. The two brothers are Palestinians.
“He left very scared,” Viera said. “The protests were going on; he was afraid. He was receiving threats on his life.”
After it was discovered that Nabil Sulaiman no longer was in the United States, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss, who represents the area, issued a statement critical of the investigation and the NAACP sent the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office a resolution calling for aggressive prosecution, said Bradford Brown, the branch’s first vice president.
“It seems to us they should have taken into account that he was coming from a situation that it would be very easy for him to leave the country,” Brown said of Nabil Sulaiman. “We’re not happy with the way it has been handled but we certainly want a vigorous prosecution of what is left.”
When made aware of some of the community’s concerns about the case, Gilbert, the prosecutor, responded: “We made the best decision based on the investigation we did and the information we had at the time.” The investigation is not over, he said.
Until the rescheduled court hearing in November, the boycott committee will focus its attention on a nonviolence community rally scheduled for August in South Miami-Dade. Organizers say they want to keep the State Attorney’s office in the spotlight for what they say is lackluster prosecution in the cases of black victims of crime.
Regardless of the outcome of the court case, Turner, the pastor, said the community is resolved to get the current owners to close the store.
Added McMillon: “We want them off the property and out of our community. We want them to sell the business. Even if the store is purchased by someone else, they will know that the South Dade area wants respect.”
Photo: Akil Oliver