The Oak Park Police Department shut down a heroin sales operation being run out of the Austin Pantry convenience store, 1 Chicago Ave., in late August, arresting an employee of the store and charging him with 17 felony counts of heroin sales and possession.
Oak Park police raided the business on Aug. 30, and arrested Edgar Lucas, 55, on 15 counts of heroin distribution two counts of heroin possession. The next day, the village issued an order of closure of the business.
Bright yellow stickers on the door and the window of the establishment note that the business has been closed by the Oak Park Police Department, but both were partially peeled away, obscuring the message.
Oak Park Police Chief Anthony Ambrose declined to discuss the arrest, citing an ongoing investigation, but documents related to the closure of the business reveal that the alleged drug sales took place between July 11 and Aug. 29.
Police appear to have surveilled Lucas over those two months, building a case showing his activity as a heroin dealer, according to the village order closing the business.
That business closure document states that Lucas sold the drugs on the premises of the business, but five of the counts specify that sales took place within 1,000 feet of a church and another five within 1,000 feet of a school.
Lucas, of the 300 block of North Latrobe Avenue in Chicago, is being by the Cook County Department of Corrections on a bail of $50,000. His next court date is set for Sept. 22 at the Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County in Maywood.
A public records search indicated that the owner Austin Pantry is Alaa Mousa.
Ali Elsaffar, the Oak Park Township assessor, has owned the building for 21 years through a real estate trust.
Elsaffar said in a telephone interview that the fact heroin was being sold out of the building was “upsetting on a number of levels.”
“I know the person who was arrested; I certainly didn’t know what he was alleged to be doing,” Elsaffar said. “After hearing some of the evidence … it would be pretty hard to believe [Lucas] was not guilty of that charge. That’s why we have the courts.”
He said Austin Pantry has been at the location for 18 years, adding, “I don’t think we’ve had a single problem with the police.”
The village held an administrative hearing on the closure of the business on Sept. 14, but the results of the hearing have not yet been made public. The private hearing, which is overseen by Village Manager Cara Pavlicek, is not open to the public or media.
Pavlicek could not be reached for comment.
Elsaffar attended the hearing and said 65 residents signed a petition pushing for allowing the business to resume operations.
“They’re very much a neighborhood store,” Elsaffar said.
Village spokesman David Powers, who released the closure order detailing some specifics of the arrest, said in an email that the final determination on the closure of the business is expected to be released on Sept. 15.
Though there is little information about the day Lucas was arrested, an anonymous source who works in the area told Wednesday Journal that the business was surrounded by police before Lucas was arrested.
The source, who declined to reveal their identity over concerns for their safety, said that prior to the bust, people stood around in the vicinity of the business.
“In that area it’s much improved (since the arrest); the crowd is gone,” the source said.
The source said some in the area suspected that drug sales were occurring at the business prior to the arrest, but it could never be confirmed.
“I’ve never seen any of it happen, so I wouldn’t want to speculate,” the source said.