Store owner says fire was no accident - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Store owner says fire was no accident

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June 28, 2004

Americus-- A grocery store is torched, and the owner says it was payback.

Jacob Battle thinks someone set fire to his store because he spoke out against a nightclub in his neighborhood at a city council meeting Thursday night.

Fresh collards are for sale at Georgia Boy Produce,"Yes, yes, the bills still go on, yeah," the greens are all that's left untouched after an apparent arson early Monday morning.

Owner Jacob Battle says, "Seems they wanted to burn it down, and they put me out of operation."

Jacob Battle has been trying to clean up more than broken glass lately, "Recently I have been quite vocal about black on black crime and about drugs in the neighborhood."

Across the street from his grocery store on North Jefferson Street is the Elk Club. Battle says the night club has been the heart of crime in the neighborhood. He says people are afraid to go out of their homes at night, "I took it to myself to be a voice for them, so now I think this is the reason why I am being attacked."

While many customers dropped by to offer condolences to Battle, others were angry. Mary Louise Singleton, whose mother lives nearby, says "You know people retaliate in the wrong way, but if someone did this, I hope they get caught."

This isn't the first time Battle's store has been vandalized. He says this latest crime won't silence him, "They say when the good people are silent, evil people will rule. I have made a determination that I will not allow evil to rule me, or this neighborhood."

He is taking back his neighborhood-- at a very high price.

Even though the fire was intentional, the fire chief says he doesn't yet know if whoever did it will be charged with arson or vandalism.

There's been no evidence that the fire is related to the nightclub.

Posted at 5:45PM by melissa.kill@walb.com