Key Food Confrontation Proves Costly

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Beacon grocery settles suit two years after assault 

The owners of the Key Food grocery store on Main Street in Beacon paid $95,000 earlier this month to settle a civil suit stemming from an assault in the store two years ago. 

Alvin C. Medina Jr., of Beacon, filed a lawsuit in March 2020 naming Key Food manager Moufaq “Mo” Dabashi and his brother, Emad Dabashi, after Emad Dabashi slammed Medina to the floor inside the store following a confrontation. 

The assault, which was captured in security camera footage and recently posted by Medina on social media, came about two hours after employees called Beacon police to the store when Medina began cursing loudly and threatened Emad Dabashi, who was an employee at the time.

According to court documents, Medina and his mother entered the store around 3:15 p.m. on March 2, 2020. While his mother waited in a checkout line, Medina walked to the deli counter, where Emad Dabashi was working. Medina asked if Dabashi would mix two premade salads in one container.

Dabashi said he could not, because the salads were priced differently. Medina responded with a vulgarity and made an obscene gesture before walking away, according to court documents. 

Dabashi followed Medina to the checkout line and told him to leave the store. Medina continued shouting, cursing and “muttering to himself” that he was going to punch Dabashi, court documents said.

The police were called to the store, but, according to the incident report, Medina left before officers arrived. Medina returned to the store alone shortly after 5 p.m. the same day. Before returning, according to court documents, he drank at least one bottle of beer and took prescription medication for depression and high blood pressure.

Inside, Medina walked to the dairy aisle and picked up a half-gallon of milk. Upon seeing him, Emad Dabashi told him that he was not allowed in the store. “I don’t want you here,” he said.

Medina ignored Dabashi and walked past him, keeping his left hand in his coat pocket, which Mo Dabashi and Emad Dabashi later said in depositions led them to believe Medina may have been carrying a weapon.

A 20-second clip from the security video shows Mo Dabashi attempting to take the milk jug from Medina, who responds by throwing it on the floor, where it burst open. Emad Dabashi, who was walking behind Medina, immediately picked him up and slammed him, face-first, to the floor, where he lay motionless. 

Key Food employees called the Beacon police again. According to the incident report, Medina suffered a cut around his eyebrow. The officers attempted to question him, but “had a difficult time understanding [him] due to his speech and appearing to be under the influence of alcohol.”

The Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corps took Medina to Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh to have his eyebrow stitched. 

Asked by officers if they wanted to press charges against Medina, the brothers declined. But Emad, 26 at the time, was arrested and charged with second-degree assault. He pleaded guilty to third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to three years of probation. He said in a deposition that he acted in self-defense but conceded that, based on the video, “everyone doesn’t see it that way.”

Medina’s lawsuit, filed four days later, alleged that Key Food, the parent company, and Alameda Meat Corp., the franchise that owns the Beacon store, failed to properly train and supervise its workers. The attack left Medina with “serious, severe and permanent personal injuries, causing him to become and remain sick, sore, lame and disabled, causing him great pain and agony” and “preventing him from enjoying the normal fruits of his activities,” it said. 

A hearing had been scheduled in Dutchess County Supreme Court for this week before the settlement was reached. 

Junior Dabashi, one of the store owners and Mo and Emad Dabashi’s brother, said on Wednesday (March 23) that the incident was out of character for his family. 

“What my brother did was wrong,” he said. “But it happened because of all the other problems we’d had all day with [Medina]. We don’t have these problems [normally]. We respect every single person. We’re here for everybody.”

The settlement was paid by Alameda’s insurance company, he said.

7 thoughts on “Key Food Confrontation Proves Costly

  1. Everything about this is wrong. The customer was causing problems at the business, not once, but several times. He appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He kept his hand in his pocket, suggesting a weapon.

    I feel what the worker did was warranted, if the article represents the facts. I would have done the same. The sad part is that the employee got arrested when the offender should have been. The company paid out. This is what they do to avoid further litigation and fees; I understand that. But it does not make it right. To reward this kind of behavior is wrong on so many levels.

  2. The video shows the customer carrying the half-gallon of milk, hemmed in by both Dabashi brothers in what appears to be a tight situation. It appears they are threatening him and he has no means of egress. The store employee from the other side of the aisle doesn’t miss a beat, finishing his drink before stepping over the injured Medina. Curiously, most of what is reported about Medina is from interviews with the Dabashis and police reports. Why wasn’t Medina interviewed for the story?

    • We didn’t interview Medina or Emad Dabashi or Moufaq Dabashi. Instead, we relied on hundreds of pages of court documents, including Medina’s complaint and depositions given by both brothers, the Beacon police report and an interview with Junior Dabashi, who is a co-owner of the store.

  3. Your article on the incident at Key Food is the most insensitive piece of reporting I have ever read. At first, I was extremely disappointed your choice of photo used, which was misleading visually and when identifying the roles people played in the incident. But after I read the 475 pages of the court documents, I see now which details and quotes you left out, which makes this photo and article even worse.

    As a local blogger and columnist who thinks a lot about finding or making appropriate pictures to pair with words in an article, I am extremely disappointed in the photo you created and printed on the front page of the newspaper telling of how the verbally abusive and banned customer named Alvin C. Medina at Key Food trespassed back into the store after consuming at least one beer and two different medications, pushed passed employees, exploded a carton of milk and was subdued to the ground by an employee, Emad Dabashi, who then went to escort Beacon police to Alvin, since the police had already been called the moment Alvin walked into the store.

    The photo showed Alvin face down on the floor of the dairy section, surrounded by three men standing above him, and red around Alvin’s neck and the floor.

    In your weekly newsletter sent to members of this free newspaper, you included a “warning” for two photos in the paper: this photo of the man, and a historic photo of a building being demolished. Publishing a warning about the demolition of a building is…uncommon? Why would we be triggered by a photo of a building demolition? Unless you wanted to create some drama before we dug into the newspaper.

    To some people who saw that photo, the red around Alvin’s neck and floor looked like blood. It was in fact Alvin’s red hoodie and hat. However, you did not mention that in the caption to help your readers know what they were looking at. When I asked this newspaper editor if anyone else got confused, the editor did not answer either way, and said he did not see a difference of if there was blood on the floor or not.

    The difference is the fueling of implicit bias this story reeked of. Pictures speak a thousand words, as we all know. Most people will see the picture, and not read the article. Maybe they read the headline.

    The rude and entitled customer, Alvin, threatened and verbally assaulted the deli employee , Emad, who is Middle Eastern. Alvin was banned from the store after yelling curse words, threatened to use force from his family, and threatened to punch Emad in the face. Beacon police were called, but they let Alvin walk right by, saying there was nothing they could do.

    After trespassing back into the store hours later, you reported that Alvin kept his hand in his left pocket, while verbally pushing back at the employees, causing them to feel threatened. But you didn’t report what he allegedly said, which was captured in the court documents you reported from. As employee, Mo Dabashi, who is Emad’s brother, told the man’s attorney: “He was still threatening, yes. He was saying you don’t know who you’re messing with, you don’t know who you’re talking to, you know, fuck you, you can’t do anything, you can’t tell me what to do.”

    After Alvin pushed into Mo and slammed his milk to the floor, Emad who was behind him, picked him up and subdued him to the ground. These days, when shootings and stabbings happen in malls and stores and customers are rude and entitled, a situation with a threat of a weapon in a pocket, paired with verbal assault and threats, is real.

    Which is why the employees maintained self-defense in the court documents when being questioned by the Alvin’s attorney. Not included in your caption was that the Key Food employees declined pressing charges against the man, and that he was taken in handcuffs by the police after being on the floor.

    Your headline focused on the cost of the lawsuit. Your article failed to mention Alvin’s attempt (and failed) to sue not one, but four business entities: two different corporate Key Foods, and the building landlord. Your article also failed to mention the man is currently suing another business for slipping on snow and ice.

    Your photo caption was unclear as to who subdued the man. Your photo caption named the 3 men standing around Alvin. Words were separated by commas, and the reader doesn’t know who did what based on your comma placement in caption.

    In reviewing the numerous very newsworthy local topics happening, did you ask yourselves: “Why are we reporting this story? Why has this video shown up after two years of the lawsuit? Who shared the video, and why? In the same month as the settlement money being awarded? Why does Alvin keep showing this video on his private social media accounts, and then taking it down?”

    Who sent you the raw file of the video? Or did you screen record it from Alvin’s social media post before he took it down? Did you ask yourselves if you were playing into the hands of the court documents, which were orchestrated by Alvin’s attorney? Did you ask yourselves if you were playing into the hands of Alvin’s social media campaign?

    For a paper that claims to be Beacon’s Hometown Newspaper, this front-page photo and article did not reflect that. Instead, you have made us all jurists. Sadly, I believe you did it to move papers without care as to how this impacts the people, family members, and local business featured.

    • Subdued is probably not the right word for what happened. The red near Medina’s head looked like a baseball cap to me (which it was), but my point in an email to Martin was that the presence of blood makes no difference in whether an assault occurred.

      According to the police report, Medina had left by the time Beacon officers arrived; they didn’t “let him walk right by.”

      There are a great many details not included in the caption, which is why we also printed a story.

      When someone sues for damages, they typically name the employer or parent corporation, because that’s where the money is, and whoever is suing will make the argument that an employer is responsible for the actions of its employees, as stated in the article. In this case, Emad Dabashi was an employee of a company and the company is a franchise of a larger corporation. That’s hardly unusual and the story noted that the store owner’s insurance company paid the settlement. Medina did not file four separate lawsuits.

      A still image very similar to what we printed was included in the lengthy court record, which Martin knows, since I shared the court record at her request after she submitted a letter to the editor that contained accusations that were not supported by the evidence in the case. I also answered by email her questions about our coverage and suggested she cover the story herself in her blog if she felt ours was inadequate.

      Medina’s attorney will be surprised to know that he orchestrated the court proceedings, rather than the judge.

      I am not sure why it’s relevant that the Dabashi family is from the Middle East (Yemen, to be precise). In their depositions, the Dabashi brothers each said that Medina did not make any reference to their ethnicity.

      No one is arguing that Medina’s behavior, as described in court documents and seen briefly on the video clip, wasn’t rude and aggressive. He could have been charged with a crime — trespassing, perhaps, or destroying store property — but the Dabashis chose not to press charges, as noted in the story. We also noted that Medina was shouting, cursing and had threatened to punch Emad Dabashi. The Dabashi brothers offered conflicting statements in their depositions as to whether Medina said anything to them when he returned to the store.

      • Everyone frames a story. Everyone is human. Reporters and editors are human. How we interpret what we see and read frames how we are gong to tell what we just saw.

        What I said in my letter is true. I will pull quotes to serve as the facts in my response to you:

        “Subdued is probably not the right word for what happened.”
        The word “Subdued” was used 7 times in the court documents you sent me, that you said you reported from. Five of those times it was used in reference to Alvin Medina being brought to the floor. Two of those times where in reference to Medina’s attorney asking Emad if Medina was himself in a more subdued state the 2nd time he returned to the store.

        “According to the police report, Medina had left by the time Beacon officers arrived; they didn’t “let him walk right by.”
        From the court documents you sent me, here is what was stated:

        MR. SCHNEIDER: “Okay. Why don’t you just play the video thank you, Mr. Dabashi. Fran, can you just resume playing, please?”
        MR. SCHNEIDER: “And as far as you know, Mr.Dabashi, is that Mr. Medina and his mother that are walking away in the upper part of the screen?”
        MO: “Yes.”
        MR. SCHNEIDER: “And that was your brother who’s closer to the police officer who
        I believe; correct?”
        MO: “Yes. Yes, and you can see his shadow under the truck talking to the police.”

        In researching for my letter to the editor, I visited Key Food and asked Mo if he could show me the video of the police car entering the parking lot, and Alvin Medina walking away. Mo showed me the video that was referenced in the court documents you sent me. I watched him walk away, as was described in the court documents that were reported from.

        “I am not sure why it’s relevant that the Dabashi family is from the Middle East (Yemen, to be precise). In their depositions, the Dabashi brothers each said that Medina did not make any reference to their ethnicity.”

        This detail was mentioned in the police report. Here is what Mo said in the deposition:
        MR. SCHNEIDER: “Did you hear Mr. Medina call anyone a terrorist in the moments preceding the time your brother threw him to the ground?”
        “A. In that moment, no.”

        The phrase was “in that moment, no.” Was this insult strewn in other moments? This is something Jeff could have asked the employees in an interview, to see how they answered him? This is a very sensitive question and detail. One that could be used for or against someone. One that I would think you and Jeff would consider when reporting this.

        “Medina did not file four separate lawsuits.”
        KATIE: Medina’s attorney named 4 entities in the lawsuit. From the court documents, he included Key Food Stores Co-Operative, Inc. Key Food CS 2, LLC, Beacon Center Associates LLC (the landlord for the building). How do you interpret that list from the court documents? The reason this is a relevant detail is because the plaintiff is trying to get as much money as possible, right? So what’s the use of not including it? Your headline focused on that it was “costly.” That is why it’s notable.

        Additionally, from the court documents, we learn that Alvin is Mr. Schnieder’s client in another lawsuit against another totally different business at the same time, for slipping on ice and snow. See page 428 of the court documents. Another implication that Alvin knows how to find himself in situations where he can sue.

        “Medina’s attorney will be surprised to know that he orchestrated the court proceedings, rather than the judge.”
        Medina’s lawyer interviewed the Dabashi’s for testimony. He came up with the questioning. He set the tone for the court documents you are reporting from. As a reporter, why does this source not make a difference to you? The attorney is Bryan G. Schneider, Esq. of The Schneider Law Office, as is stated on everything he submitted for these documents, and he questioned the people and submitted the paperwork that you read from.

        The fact that you think this is clear as day is just… I am just in disbelief and saddened at your perception.