SALISBURY, N.C. -- A convenience store owner charged with selling alcohol to a minor who died hours later in a skateboarding accident says he thought the teenager was an older brother who looks alike and is old enough to buy beer.
Alcohol Law Enforcement agents charged 68-year-old Hecham Abualeinan with selling beer to 16-year-old Jonah King twice in two days, including the day King died. Abualeinan is on store surveillance video not checking King’s identification, officials said.
King died last week from a head injury suffered while skateboarding around 1:30 a.m. on Timberlake Trail in Salisbury. Investigators say alcohol contributed to the accident. King’s mother, Jackie, said her son and son’s friend drank nine beers out of an 18-pack before they went skateboarding.
King also says her son was a regular at Abualeinan’s Z and H Mart on Mooresville Road and says Abualeinan knew her son was underage but sold beer to him anyway because he was a regular customer.
"It is their responsibility to check identification,” King said.
Officials haven’t released Jonah King’s blood alcohol level, but Jackie says it was nowhere near the legal limit. She also says her son’s death could have happened even if he wasn’t drinking. King was not wearing a helmet when he fell off the skateboard and hit his head on the road.
King says Abualeinan is a good man who made a mistake.
"He did not do it maliciously. He made a mistake. Jonah made a mistake, Kevin made a mistake. I have made mistakes, and this was an accident," King said.
In addition to the charges, Abualeinen could face a fine or have his permit to sell alcohol suspended or revoked.
Meanwhile, King wants this to be a lesson to kids about physically protecting themselves while skateboarding, as well as making good decisions when it comes to alcohol.