ST. PETERSBURG, Fla (WFLA) – After a year-long drug investigation, St. Petersburg police searched a convenience store. Around 2 p.m. Wednesday police served the search warrant at Fat Boys Deli, 2680 5th Ave S.
A patron named Maurice was surprised to see the search going on at the store – but not surprised drugs were at the center of the investigation. He said he sees dealers out front trying to sell drugs quite often. “They usually chase them off when they see them outside doing that,” he said.
But inside of the store, police said, clerks were selling crack cocaine and marijuana. Police say buyers would walk to the back door of the store to purchase the drugs. “Someone would come in, give a code word,” St. Petersburg Police Major Antonio Gilliam said. “They would sell marijuana to a customer who wanted it.”
Police report 57 calls for service to Fat Boys Deli in the last year alone. Many of the calls were reports of aggravated battery, drug sales and brandishing of weapons. During Wednesday’s search warrant, police found little plastic bags used for selling drugs and a loaded firearm hidden underneath lottery tickets, behind the cashier stand. The gun was stolen in 2012 in St. Petersburg, police said.
John Thompson lives near the store and says he’s been offered drugs several times out front. “They don’t care,” he said. “As long as you don’t look like a cop, they’ll offer right to you.”
But a neighbor named Keith said he was shocked to see the search because he says the owners don’t like anyone selling drugs on their property. “Low level drug dealers come up here and try to sell drugs in front of the store,” he said. “He always ran them off, always.”
Police say the store was given a warning to stop its activities several months ago but the warnings weren’t heeded. On Wednesday, two employees were questioned and released. Police will seek to bring the store before a nuisance abatement board for a hearing because the store was previously warned.
A hearing could result in the store receiving fines or being closed down. The investigation is ongoing.