We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Friday, 13 August 2010

Just coz it's Friday the 13th

Fear grips those who get around Flint on foot

FLINT -- Before Thursday, walking the streets of Flint late at night or early in the morning brought about a sense of fear.

There was a serial killer on the loose, stabbing and slashing vulnerable men, mostly African Americans, as they walked alone in the dark.

The arrest of suspect Elias Abuelazam, 33, on Wednesday undoubtedly eased minds across the Flint area.

But still today, like the weeks when the suspect was roaming the streets, Flint residents do a lot of walking.

Some don't have cars, others have suspended driver's licenses. Some have to walk to catch buses to work or to buy food.

Some walk to relatives' homes. Others walk because, in this shrinking industrial town that has been repeatedly smacked by decades of automotive industry cutbacks, they have no place else to go.

Before Wednesday, many men were cautious, some scared. They employed evasive tactics, like those used by Alono Hill, who started walking behind buildings, in the center of the road or under streetlights.

Walking is Hill's only means of transportation since his license was suspended -- and he wasn't about to allow a serial killer to scare him away from living life.

One just has to be extra cautious, he said. For Hill, that means arming himself with a knife.

"I believe when it's your time, then it's your time," said Hill, 43.

Bilal Sims, 34, of Flint changed his habits.

He started shopping during the day and avoided his routine midnight walks to a local gas station for cigarettes.

Sims knew one of the slasher's victims, Emmanuel Muhammed, who was killed June 21 at Wood and Avenue B.

Sims and Muhammed both attended the Muslim House.

Lee Wilkes, 43, had an escort when the stabbings started -- a protective nephew watching out for him. Wilkes suffers from a mental disability, and his nephew Robert Chatters worries Wilkes could be vulnerable. Chatters said the stabbings made him nervous, even standing at a bus stop at 6 a.m. to go to work when a man approached him and started a conversation.

"It alerted me," said Chatters, 44. "I was more fearful."

Read more: Fear grips those who get around Flint on foot | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20100813/NEWS05/8130380/1001/News/Fear-grips-those-who-get-around-Flint-on-foot#ixzz0wTbYCaNc

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