MILWAUKEE — A former gas station employee — accused of firing shots in an incident that led to protests and a call for a boycott of the BP gas station near Sherman and Burleigh — and the gas station employee’s termination was in court Wednesday, July 27th for his initial appearance.
34-year-old Bhupinder Sidhu of Milwaukee faces one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.
In court on Wednesday, probable cause was found for Sidhu to stand trial in this case — and he pleaded not guilty.
A $1,000 signature bond was set — and a pre-trial conference was scheduled for September 6th.
A criminal complaint indicates officers were dispatched to the gas station for a shots fired call on Tuesday night, July 19th.
Police learned shots had been fired by a gas station employee.
According to the complaint, Sidhu told investigators shortly after Sherman Park closed at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday night, a large group of juveniles came to the store.
An employee attempted to close the entrance to the store — but couldn’t because someone was holding the door open.
Sidhu claimed he feared for his safety and his employee’s safety — so he took his loaded Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber shield handgun from behind the counter and exited the store.
He said he then pointed the handgun in the air, and fired two rounds “in order to try to get people to leave the store.”
Investigators reviewed surveillance video, which shows Sidhu exiting the store while holding what appears to be a handgun. Sidhu can then be seen raising the gun in the air — and the crowd can be seen scattering.
Sidhu and two others are then seen following the crowd until everyone left the area near the gas station.
The incident led to protests and a call to boycott the gas station.
The protest continued for much of last week. A group of people camped out at the gas station told potential customers to spend their money elsewhere.
“There’s no reason for a kid to be getting shot at,” a protester said.
“I’m not saying their behavior was acceptable, but shooting at them is never acceptable,” a protester said.
Protesters said a group of 40-50 young people were gathered in the gas station’s parking lot on Tuesday night when gas station employees tried to close the doors.
“I just heard two gunshots. I thought somebody got killed,” a protester said.
“You just came out and shot your gun off over the heads of kids,” said Frank Nitty, who organized the protest.
Nitty was there on Tuesday night, and said he confronted the gas station employee who fired the shots. He created live reports on Facebook — promoting the boycott.
“I keep hearing these are bad kids. If they’re bad then come to where these bad kids are and help them,” said Nitty.
On Thursday, amid the protest, the gas station’s owner lowered the price of gas to $1.99 per gallon in an effort to bring customers to his store.
The move drew a line of cars to the gas station — but those looking to fill their tanks with cheap gas had to deal with taunts from protesters.
“If somebody believes that property is worth more than life, that`s not somebody you should spend your money with. That tells me you care about my dollar and not my life,” Vaun Mayes Bey said.
Rochelle Wallace was one of those who stopped at the gas station to fill up her tank. She said she wasn’t intimidated by the protesters.
“I mean, I understand the point, but let`s make sense. At what point do you take responsibility for your kids and at what point do you say — stop tearing up the gas station. Be respectful to the gas attendant. We need to shop here. This is your community,” Wallace said.
By Friday, the owner of the station and the protesters had a meeting of the minds — agreeing to talk. Then on Saturday, a block party was held to bring the two sides together once again.
A few weeks prior to this shots fired incident, on June 29th, windows were broken at the nearby BP gas station, which had to close due to safety concerns after a group of teens caused a disturbance at the nearby Sherman Park.