Arson rallies Third Street business owners

Officials: Rifled shoe store whose worker allegedly shot woman was set ablaze

Third Street business owners reacted with defiance Thursday, following an arson attack on a clothing store where an employee allegedly shot a shoplifter.

Police and fire officials confirmed that an early morning fire that caused an estimated $70,000 in damage to the building and merchandise at Pop Ya Collar clothing store was intentional. The store has operated at 4732 Third St. for about seven months and has been a frequent target of shoplifters, police and neighbors said.

On Wednesday, at about 12:45 p.m., Haggag Mohsin, 21, was working at the store when a group of two men and three women came in and worked together to shoplift some shoes, police reported. When he realized the merchandise had been taken, Mohsin allegedly grabbed a gun from behind the counter and ran outside.

Two of the women were sitting in an idling car, and he allegedly shot at them through the car’s rear window. The woman in the driver’s seat was hit in the back, police reported.

Police arrested Mohsin on Wednesday and booked him into jail, where he remained Thursday. The District Attorney’s Office charged Mohsin with one count of shooting into an occupied vehicle and two counts of assault with a firearm.

The 40-year-old woman he allegedly shot was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

At about 1:40 a.m. Thursday, Mohsin’s brother, Adnan Mohsin, the store’s owner, received a call from his alarm company, reporting a burglary at the store, police spokesman Sgt. Steve Mannina said. Adnan Mohsin drove to the store from his Oakland home, and when he arrived he found firefighters extinguishing a single-alarm fire.

According to witnesses and police, a group later broke into the rear of the charred and locked store and stole shoes.

But the fire came as no large surprise to Delia Bell, whose family has owned the damaged building as well as the neighboring property for 40 years. She lives and runs a dry-cleaning business next door.

She said friends of the woman who was shot told her Wednesday that they planned to burn the store. “I thought it was just a joke,” she said, but reality set in as the flames licked the building’s façade.

“They told me it’s not OK to shoot a girl but it’s OK for them to burn my building?” Bell said. “They come here, hold him up at gunpoint, steal his stuff — what can you do?”

Bell said she knew who was involved with the arson, but would not identify them for fear of retaliation.

Darius Hankins, who owns a locksmith business on the next block, called on merchants to form an association to support police. He said the neighborhood is in the midst of an economic revitalization that some resist. Hankins characterized the arsonists and suspected shoplifters as “remnants of what’s not going to be here within a year or two.”

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who represents the neighborhood on the Board of Supervisors, said that while there has been resistance to development in the neighborhood, she did not believe the shoplifters had that in mind. “These [simply] are thieves,” she said. She said vigilantism constitutes “lawlessness,” and that business owners should follow procedures and call police to report shoplifters.

amartin@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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