Restaurant owner: Smashed window not race related, but punctuates security worries

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The owner of the newly opened Ishtar Mediterranean Cuisine restaurant in downtown Fargo said he witnessed an intoxicated individual smash the window of his business. Dave Olson/The Forum

FARGO — One recent Sunday afternoon, Ameen Salem was working at his newly opened restaurant, Ishtar Mediterranean Cuisine , when a man who appeared to be intoxicated began pestering customers.

Salem said he asked the man to leave, offering him food and a little money, but he said the individual became increasingly aggressive.

Eventually, Salem was able to get the individual out of the restaurant.

Although the man left, he returned more aggressive than ever and used a foot to smash one of Ishtar's windows, Salem said.

Fargo police, who were dispatched to the area on a report of a broken window and a male who was trying to start fights on Broadway, said a witness to the activity placed a 32-year-old male under citizen's arrest for disorderly conduct and the man was taken to the Cass County Jail.


The individual taken to jail, Michael E. Williams, who according to court records has no permanent address, pleaded guilty the following day to charges of disorderly conduct and criminal mischief and was sentenced to 40 days in jail.

Talking about the window incident about a week after it happened, Salem said he is resigned to covering the approximately $900 cost of a new window himself, stating he didn't think the person responsible has the resources to pay for it.

Salem, who immigrated to the United States from Iraq in 2007 and worked at other local eateries before opening his own, said the incident has heightened concerns he has had since opening the restaurant in January — concerns that have to do with panhandling activity and intoxicated individuals who sometimes gather near the business.

Salem said his worry is that customers and others who visit downtown for dining and other activities may start to feel uncomfortable because of the situation.

David Cohen, who described himself as a friend of the Salem family and someone who enjoys spending time downtown, said he has been made to feel uncomfortable himself, at times, by persons he encounters who stop him to ask for money.

Cohen said he has not run into anyone who was openly threatening, but he could see how some visitors to downtown might perceive such encounters as unpleasant.

Salem and Cohen said they believe a larger police presence downtown would help with issues like panhandling and intoxicated persons and provide business owners and pedestrians with a greater sense of security.

A posting on social media raised the question of whether the window incident may have been racially motivated, but Salem said that wasn't the case, adding he is grateful for the support he has received from customers following the incident, stating it has reaffirmed his faith in the community.


"People in Fargo are still nice, no matter what happens," Salem said.

Cohen said he has lived in several places around the country and that he has settled on Fargo for all the good things it has to offer.

"It's the most peaceful city," he said.

That is largely the consensus among many in the downtown neighborhood, according to Chris Schlepp, operations manager for Fargo's Business Improvement District .

Schlepp said incidents like the one at Ishtar tend to be isolated events, and he described downtown as a very safe place — one he doesn't hesitate bringing his family to.

"We have very safe downtown," he said.

Fargo police spokeswoman Jessica Schindeldecker said the police department's downtown resource officers work to provide enhanced services to the area by focusing on violations of law that affect the quality of life for people who live, work and visit downtown.

"Our downtown area is also policed by several police officers throughout the hours of the day with the same mission," she said.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

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