Dallas says his leases are crime havens, however can he be pressured to make repairs, safety upgrades?

The outlines of a determine shrouded in darkness dragged the physique down the stairwell of a decrepit South Dallas residence constructing and dumped it amongst outdated tires and different trash in a dumpster.

The Nov. 2 homicide was a grim instance of the violence and hazard that 2906 Holmes Avenue had dropped at the neighborhood, metropolis officers mentioned. Some months earlier, FBI brokers raided the constructing and two different high-crime rental properties in South Dallas, making a number of drug-related arrests.

Federal authorities mentioned the residences had turn into havens for drug sellers and spawned quite a few different crimes comparable to prostitution, robberies, shootings, assaults and homicide. Dallas metropolis officers say the proprietor, Stewart McCray, refuses to scrub them up, make repairs or present correct safety.

The town has two ongoing lawsuits towards him – one filed in 2018 and one other filed earlier this 12 months – through which it’s asking a choose to pressure him into motion.

McCray, 56, mentioned he was unable to remark, and his attorneys didn’t reply to requests for an interview. However in court docket paperwork, his attorneys have argued that the town is unfairly forcing him to make costly, unreasonable and pointless repairs that will require him to boost rents, forcing his low-income tenants to seek out housing elsewhere.

Dallas continues to crack down on alleged slum landlords, as evidenced by the a number of lawsuits it has filed lately. Such circumstances elevate questions on how a lot culpability landlords ought to bear for out-of-control crime at their properties.

Stewart McCray(Dallas County Sheriff)

“The police want the cooperation and assist of native homeowners so as to successfully tackle crime,” a court-appointed receiver mentioned in one of many McCray lawsuits.

The Dallas Metropolis Council in 2017 handed a “nuisance abatement” ordinance permitting the police division to slap an indication onto troublesome properties, figuring out them as locations of “recurring prison exercise.” Different instruments the town has to battle crime and pressure code compliance embrace lawsuits like those towards McCray and, in uncommon circumstances, seizing and demolishing a constructing.

Medicine had been offered within the open at McCray’s residences, metropolis and federal authorities say. Folks have been murdered, shot, robbed and crushed there. At one location, two totally different road gangs took over the property and turned it into an elaborate narcotics market the place varied medicine had been lower, packaged and offered, the feds say.

Patrons had been allowed house inside to devour their buy “for a small payment,” in accordance with the indictment.

The town, nevertheless, has a combined file when coping with nuisance properties. It pressured the closing of a South Dallas enterprise, Jim’s Automobile Wash, in 2019 after a metropolis Board of Adjustment dominated it was a perpetual crime magnet. However metropolis officers have had much less success with dozens of shabby rental properties owned by the Topletz household. That case started with a 2015 metropolis lawsuit, and it dragged on with combined outcomes for years till the events lastly settled originally of 2021.

Different native enterprise homeowners who allowed drug gross sales on their properties have been charged criminally.

A federal jury in Dallas in November convicted native nightclub proprietor Alfredo Hinojosa of managing a drug premises. Prosecutors mentioned Hinojosa, 59, constructed his empire by permitting cocaine gross sales in his membership bogs, which drew monumental crowds to his venues. Hinojosa, proprietor of the OK Corral and Far West nightclubs, faces 10 years to life in jail when he’s sentenced.

And Amos Mun, 66, proprietor of a squalid motel referred to as Han Gil Resort City, was sentenced in late 2019 to twenty years in federal jail for sustaining a drug-involved premises. A federal choose referred to as the property, the place no less than three folks died of overdoses, a “resort of horrors.”

The town can be suing two of McCray’s enterprise entities – Blue Window Capital and Meyers Avenue Park Residences – over 5 of his South Dallas rental buildings.

Officers say McCray has refused to carry his rental properties as much as code — or to even go to them to see the damaging situations for himself. A court-appointed receiver has mentioned in court docket data that McCray additionally has threatened to dramatically hike his tenants’ hire in the event that they cooperate with court-approved contractors.

“Mr. McCray’s unwillingness to manage the actions at his property utilizing normal property administration methods has shifted the burden to the Dallas Police Division, which has made common arrests and seizures of medicine over the previous 12 months,” mentioned Dennis L. Roossien, the court-appointed receiver tasked with overseeing fixes to the Holmes Avenue residences, in a March court docket submitting.

However certainly one of McCray’s attorneys, Latrice E. Andrews, mentioned in an April court docket submitting that each time her shopper fixes an issue, new points pop up. She mentioned the town needs certainly one of McCray’s properties for its “redevelopment plans for that space.”

His attorneys have additionally mentioned in court docket filings that the town isn’t giving McCray sufficient time to make repairs.

“The town has initiated this litigation with out consideration of financial realities of the world, and present situations of the bigger neighborhood,” Andrews wrote.

One other McCray lawyer, Craig Sheils, wrote that the receiver and contractor confirmed no indicators of “making an attempt to reduce the associated fee” of repairs. Sheils argued the tenants had been “glad with their houses” and could be priced out of the constructing if city-imposed prices pressure McCray to boost rents.

Dallas city officials say Stewart McCray sent this text to his tenants.
Dallas metropolis officers say Stewart McCray despatched this textual content to his tenants.(Metropolis of Dallas)

“Additional, it reduces an already very restricted provide of inexpensive housing within the metropolis of Dallas,” Sheils wrote within the December 2020 submitting. “The tenants of the properties desperately want houses they will afford.”

McCray, who lives in Dallas, comes from a Kansas household that ran a profitable lumber firm, in accordance with his chapter and divorce data. He listed his occupation as “mortgage consulting” in his 2012 chapter case. His property at one level had been listed at about $10 million, in accordance with chapter data.

A ‘foul odor’

Certainly one of his tenants who complained about uncooked sewage at her property was handed an eviction lawsuit by McCray – thrice in three months.

Elnora Hamilton died earlier than attending to see her South Dallas residence mounted up. Hamilton, 75, succumbed to COVID-19 in April in the midst of a lawsuit she filed towards McCray with assist from Authorized Help of Northwest Texas, her caretaker mentioned.

Hamilton had claimed in her 2020 lawsuit that she signed a lease with McCray’s Blue Window Capital in September 2017 for a two-bedroom unit at 2906 Holmes Avenue for $525 a month.

When a “foul odor” invaded her residence within the spring of 2018, she complained quite a few occasions, the lawsuit mentioned. Months later, the constructing started “having a difficulty with uncooked sewage being dumped into the streets and property.”

Often called BIG “E” and “Mama,” Hamilton referred to as the town’s code compliance division to make a report, and requested that McCray make repairs. He didn’t, she mentioned. As an alternative, McCray retaliated towards her for complaining to the town, in accordance with her lawsuit. Along with the failed eviction makes an attempt, McCray additionally tried to hike Hamilton’s hire with out giving correct discover, the lawsuit alleged.

The exterior of 2906 Holmes St on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Dallas. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)
The outside of 2906 Holmes St on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Dallas. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning Information)(Juan Figueroa / Workers Photographer)

Her residence additionally had uneven flooring, a big crack, defective electrical wiring and rat and cockroach infestation, court docket data mentioned.

Her caretaker, Keith Harris, nonetheless lives within the residence. He mentioned in a telephone interview that he’s nonetheless ready for repairs. Harris, who lives in a ground-floor residence, mentioned the inspiration may be very weak and that a number of sinkholes shaped in his unit.

“It’s solely gotten worse,” he mentioned. “I’m scared the entire constructing will collapse on us.”

Meyers Avenue

The FBI led a significant crackdown in June on the town’s most harmful and crime-ridden rental properties. About 400 federal brokers, together with these from the Drug Enforcement Administration, helped Dallas police make the arrests concentrating on violent criminals on the South Dallas places.

One of many indictments that’s been unsealed includes McCray’s twin buildings on the 2600 block of Meyers Avenue simply west of Honest Park that road gangs had become a bustling drug market.

The buildings are positioned within the “Park Row” space of South Dallas — certainly one of its “most constantly violent areas” the place a excessive variety of murders, shootings, and aggravated assaults happen, federal prosecutors mentioned.

Rival gang factions labored within the Meyers Avenue buildings, every accountable for its separate drug operation, authorities mentioned. If one facet ran out of medicine, the opposite would lend it extra medicine to promote, court docket data say. In the course of the investigation, police seized 36 weapons, greater than $58,000 in money, six autos and greater than 39 kilos of medicine.

The indictment says not one of the Meyers Avenue residences had been leased as “reputable residential dwelling areas.” One of many gangs that used the property was the Park Row Posse, which police have referred to as a “subset” of the Crips. Twelve folks have been charged within the federal case with varied drug counts.

The exterior of Meyers Street Park Apartments photographed on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Dallas. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)
The outside of Meyers Avenue Park Residences photographed on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Dallas. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning Information)(Juan Figueroa / Workers Photographer)

On the time of the federal raid, the town was suing McCray over the situation of his Meyers Avenue properties. The nuisance abatement lawsuit filed in March 2021 alleges that McCray continues to disregard the damaging situations.

The town most not too long ago requested a choose to carry McCray in contempt for violating an settlement to maintain the properties vacant till metropolis inspectors can decide they’re secure. Metropolis attorneys mentioned in a September court docket submitting that McCray continued to hire out a number of the second-story residences regardless of “imminent hazard” on account of an “unstable second-story touchdown, unstable stairs and faulty floorboards.”

McCray was informed of the violations however continued to maneuver tenants into the second-story residences, metropolis attorneys mentioned in a court docket submitting. The town additionally reported {that a} “store” had opened in one of many items at 2625 Meyers St., “inviting extra residents to the second-story balcony and items.”

A state district choose on Dec. 20 held McCray in civil contempt and ordered him to pay a each day tremendous of $100 till he fixes the hearth code violations and till Dallas Hearth Rescue “has permitted the integrity of the balconies and stairways,” court docket data present.

An apartment in the Meyers Street apartment complex.
An residence within the Meyers Avenue residence complicated.(Krause, Kevin)

Metropolis inspectors additionally reported in June that all the home windows at 2625 Meyers St. had been boarded up, creating a hearth security hazard.

In response, McCray’s attorneys argued that the town had ordered him to repair the home windows that the FBI broke throughout their raid on the buildings and was utilizing that injury to close the tenants out of their houses. In an accompanying affidavit, McCray wrote that individuals did, in actual fact, reside on the Meyers Avenue properties, opposite to regulation enforcement studies.

“The tenants that stay have nowhere to go and their unit is their house,” McCray wrote. “The damages brought on by the raid to the properties is pricey.”

Holmes Avenue

The town has additionally been preventing McCray in court docket since 2018 over three rental properties he owns on the 2000 block of Holmes Avenue, which is on the alternative facet of Interstate 45 from the Meyers properties.

In a November submitting, metropolis attorneys mentioned the situations have worsened for the reason that lawsuit was filed.

“Actually, the staggering enhance in prison exercise triggered an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Assistant Metropolis Legal professional Alexandra M. Jones wrote within the submitting.

McCray’s 2906 Holmes St. items had been among the many metropolis’s most violent residence complexes that the FBI raided in June, in accordance with metropolis officers. In Could of 2019, somebody was shot and killed there. Dallas police have proven up quite a few occasions to serve warrants for medicine and different crimes. Within the first six months of 2019, for instance, folks had been robbed, shot, pistol-whipped and crushed there, the town’s lawsuit mentioned.

The issues continued in 2020 with extra folks being robbed, assaulted and shot – one within the foot, one other within the face.

Police display items seized from 2906 Holmes St in Dallas.
Police show objects seized from 2906 Holmes St in Dallas.

The difficulty culminated with the Nov. 2 homicide through which a tenant killed somebody inside his unit at 2906 Holmes and dragged the physique down the steps. Dallas police mentioned Leslie Glen Jones, 39, had a number of gunshot wounds. The suspect turned himself in and was charged with homicide, police mentioned.

A state district choose on Dec. 7 granted the town’s request to offer its court-appointed receiver within the case authority to take full management of the Holmes Avenue properties so as to clear them up and make them secure.

The receiver alleged that the defendants had violated a number of court docket orders within the case; refused to rent a contractor to handle the code violations; and failed to offer enough safety measures.

“The properties proceed to be a big hazard to the encircling neighborhood,” Jones, the town lawyer, wrote in a latest submitting.

Roossien, the receiver, wrote that 2906 Holmes St., identified locally because the “Inexperienced Home,” is a “infamous, open and apparent central hub of prison exercise.”

“The Inexperienced Home will not be merely a twelve-unit residence constructing,” he wrote. “It’s a industrial operation. Giant crowds recurrently collect to partake of the medicine and prostitution marketed at this website.”

Roossien mentioned he’s seen this for himself each time he’s been out to the Inexperienced Home at night time.

He mentioned his personal checks on the tenants revealed that almost all had prison data.

“It has turn into the dominant tradition on that a part of the neighborhood,” he mentioned.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia addresses a press conference on a law enforcement action taken to address violent crime at the FBI Dallas Headquarters on Thursday, June 10, 2021, in Dallas.  Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of FBI – Dallas is at right.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia (center) shakes hands with Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of FBI – Dallas after a press conference on a law enforcement action taken to address violent crime at the FBI Dallas Headquarters on Thursday, June 10, 2021, in Dallas. ATF Dallas Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Boshek II is at left, and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah is at right.