Harvey looters prompt neighborhood business owner to call it quits

HOUSTON – Court documents spell out a case of looting that goes far beyond a routine smash-and-grab. A small, neighborhood liquor store was hit by thieves on Aug. 28, prompting the owner to say, "enough is enough."

“This last go around ... (They) just told me that it’s over,” said Leroy Ruffin.

Ruffin has owned the R&Y Package Liquor store in Sunnyside for more than 30 years. His easy-going, gentlemanly manner has been a mainstay in the neighborhood.

“I know quite a bit of people around here,” said Ruffin. “For the last 30 something years it was quite a ride, it was good.”

As Houston was largely underwater, police said who knows how many thieves took advantage of the chaos to pry open the doors of Ruffin’s business and make off with practically his entire inventory.

"When I say cleaned me out, they did," said Ruffin. “It really shocked the hell out of me, really.”

Court records read thieves made off with $21,750 worth of liquor, $650 worth of beer and $475 worth of cigarettes. Ruffin reported a total of $750 in damage was also done to the business by the burglars. Ruffin said he’s been hit by burglars before, but never this bad.

Ruffin said he had to pay $15,000 out of pocket to keep the store afloat until his liquor license expires early next year. After that he said he’s closing the doors.

"I'm not going to make a comeback, I'm going to close it," Ruffin said.

Police have at least one suspect in this crime. Tiffany Dee 'Star Child' Barrie, 37, is charged with felony burglary of a building. State records show Barrie has a lengthy criminal history.

In a cruel twist, police said Barrie was caught running out of the store, but she didn’t go to jail. Court documents read officers had enough evidence to get a warrant filed, but Barrie was no taken to jail at that time because of the “devastation of Hurricane Harvey and mass flooding that prevented the suspect from being transported to a jail facility.”

As of Friday afternoon, Barrie had not been arrested. Neighbors who live across the street from a house listed as her home address told KPRC the residence was vacant.

"I'm just tired of it, you know, people breaking in, taking stuff that doesn't belong to them," said Ruffin.