By Jake Dorsey / Tri-City Herald
Federal agents raided the East Africa Grocery and Halal on Vista Way in Kennewick on Tuesday morning.
The store was closed until about 1:30 p.m. while agents poked around inside but they declined say why they were there.
The grocery reopened in the afternoon.
Store owner Abdirahman Hassan said the agents asked him questions about money transfers, food prices and where he bought food, among other questions.
“Too many questions,” Hassan said. “They were asking me everything, everything, everything!”
The agents, one wearing a vest that said “USDA Special Agent,” referred all questions to the office of acting U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington.
Harrington told the Herald he had no comment about the raid.
U.S. Department of Agriculture agents work for the department’s Office of Inspector General. The office’s website says agents investigate criminal activity such as fraud in subsidy and benefits programs, extortion and smuggling.
Kennewick police reported no problems other than minor thefts and lost wallets at the store going back a couple years.
Hassan said it was the second time law enforcement had visited his store. The first time involved state authorities asking about alcohol and cigarettes.
The grocery at 126 Vista Way primarily serves foods that are halal, or permissible, by the laws of Islam. He said that, as a Muslim, he doesn’t sell either alcohol or cigarettes and never did.
A woman named Marianne, who would only give her first name, said she and her family frequent the store. She said the store sells meat from Australia because it is prepared using halal practices.
“This is the only store that we have,” Marianne said as she stood outside the store. “It’s a family store. It’s a community store. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s where you come.”
Several people showed up trying to go inside while Marianne waited to find out what happened. One had the flag of Turkey hanging from his car’s rear-view mirror.
They quickly left when they were told about the agents, expressing surprise.
Hassan said he loses customers when the police come to his store, but he said the Tri-Cities in general has been the problem.
“I feel this town is not welcome to foreign people,” Hassan said. “(Customers) go back to Seattle, Portland, California. When I ask them why they won’t stay here, they say this town isn’t welcoming.”
“We always are worried (when) you’re a Muslim,” she said. “You can be blamed for anything.”