Shoe Store Guard Arrested After 12-Year-Old Boy Wounded in Gun Battle

By Murray WeissChelsia Rose Marcius and Wil Cruz  on May 22, 2012 12:36pm  | Updated on May 22, 2012 2:53pm

Styrofoam cups mark evidence inside Rugged Sole shoe store on the corner of Utica Avenue and Union Street in Crown Heights, where two people were shot Monday, May 21, 2012
Styrofoam cups mark evidence inside Rugged Sole shoe store on the corner of Utica Avenue and Union Street in Crown Heights, where two people were shot Monday, May 21, 2012
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DNAinfo/Sonja Sharp

BROOKLYN — A gun-toting security worker at a Crown Heights shoe store was arrested after trading fire with a customer inside the shop Monday night, leaving a 12-year-old boy and another innocent bystander wounded, police sources said.

Kenneth Meeks, 45, of Brownsville, was working security at the Rugged Sole at 298 Utica Ave. Monday night when he got into a gun battle with an angry customer he had ejected from the store for standing around too long, sources said.

Meeks, whom neighborhood merchants said works security for several of the stores along the Utica Avenue strip, was taken out of the store in handcuffs Monday night and charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon, sources said.

He was awaiting arraignment Tuesday at Brooklyn Criminal Court, sources said.

The problems began when Meeks told a man in the store to get out because he'd been there too long, sources said. The man, who has not been identified by police, told Meeks he'd leave — but said he'd be back with his gun.

The man returned at 7:30 p.m., armed with a black handgun, stepped inside the store filled with customers, and started blasting, sources said.

Meeks whipped out his 9mm. handgun and returned fire, sources said. It was not immediately clear whether he was licensed to carry the weapon.

Meeks has 13 prior arrests, sources said, including a misdemeanor attempted robbery in 1986 and criminal mischief in 2000. Ten of the arrests were sealed, sources added.

The windows on the Rugged Sole were blown out during the hail of gunfire, leaving glass scattered over the sidewalk.

The 12-year-old boy, who had been shopping for shoes inside the store, was struck in the leg, police sources said. The boy, whose identity is being withheld by DNAinfo.com New York, was taken to Kings County Hospital in stable condition, police said.

He was back at his home and was getting around on crutches Tuesday afternoon.

"He's doing fine," said Pascal Prampin, 38, who lives in the same building as the boy's family. "His spirits [are] very high."

The scene of a shooting at 298 Utica Ave. May 21, 2012.
The scene of a shooting at 298 Utica Ave. May 21, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Sonja Sharp

"But he took it [the bullet] and said it didn't hurt," Prampin added. "He said, 'I feel like somebody just punched me really hard.'"

Prampin, whose young son is a playmate of the victim, said he's an athletic kid who plays basketball and enjoys riding his bike.

"He's very outgoing," he added. "He's a smart kid, and his parents are very strict."

Christopher Townsend, 35, of Crown Heights, who is not related to the victim, was hit in the left arm, police said. He was also taken to Kings County Hospital in stable condition, police said.

"He is one of the nicest persons you could meet," said Simon Conrad, 52, the landlord of the Crown Heights building where Townsend lives. "He is loving and decent, and I would never expect anything like that to happen to him."

Meanwhile, Billy Kiswani, 46, a manager at a nearby Key Food who said he knows Meeks from the neighborhood, said he was surprised by the allegations against the security worker.

"He's a very nice guy," said Kiswani. "He never had a gun on him, ever."

A woman who identified herself as Meeks' sister, but who refused to give her name, described him as a hard worker.

"He's worked here over 30 years," she said. "He's a good guy, and a good worker. All he does is work."

Tuan Nguyen and Trevor Kapp contributed to this article.

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