The Dowagiac Daily News names its top story of the year

Published 9:23 am Monday, December 31, 2018

DOWAGIAC — In the last year, our newspapers have covered stories of heartbreak, warmth and triumph. As 2018 draws to a close, our newsroom will be taking a look back at some of those stories and the most memorable events of the last year in Dowagiac and Cass County as we count down the 10 stories of the year, as determined by our staff. Today’s countdown names our top two stories of the year.

2. New business flocks to Dowagiac

In 2018, the city of Dowagiac saw growth in its business sector, as many several new businesses opened in the area.

In March, Wright Farms Market opened at 111 W. Railroad St. The store sells a variety of meats, including beef, chicken, pork and lamb. The store also sells farm fresh eggs, produce, a range of local products, such as noodles and pancake mixes, and organic products.

The Vape Saloon, which sells specialty vape products, opened on Front Street in early June. Also in June, Front Street’s Round Oak Revisited reopened Philo’s Pub, the long-closed bar in the basement of the restaurant.

July saw the opening of both Smoke Signal BBQ, a carryout restaurant that sells traditional BBQ items, and Lifestyle Nutrition, which sells various smoothies, a selection of teas and “tea bombs.” Smoke Signal BBQ is located at 103 E. Commercial St. Lifestyle Nutrition is located at 56042 M-51 S.

In late August, Janel Industries, a defense contractor that specializes in packaging, earlier this year made the move to Dowagiac from Cassopolis, where it had previously been located. Also in August, Deck the Halls, a specialty Christmas store, made the move from its small location on Commercial Street to a much larger storefront at 202 Front St.

In November, a new art gallery opened in town, with Culturfx Art Gallery opening at 102 Commercial St. The gallery spotlights local artists and offers art classes.

More businesses grew this year, such as Miss Michele & Co., which expanded to a second storefront, or were sold, such as The Scissor Mill, which was sold by former owner Julie Fisher-Fryman to Jackie Riggs. The salon is now operating under the new name of the Front Street Salon. Holiday hotspot Deck the Halls also expanded into a new storefront in August. The one-stop-shop for all things Christmas moved from its original space on Commercial Street to a larger location at 202 Front St.

1. The murder of Fabian “Jimmy” Wesaw

The city of Dowagiac was rattled this summer when in the early hours of July 29, Rolandis Raisean Russell, 24, of the 200 block of Pokagon Street in Dowagiac, allegedly shot an AK-47 into a crowd, killing one.

Russell is accused of fatally shooting “Jimmy” Fabian Wesaw, 42, of Dowagiac, on the morning of July 29 on Beeson Street in Dowagiac.

Police were called around 2:29 a.m. July 29 to the Beeson Street Bar in Dowagiac for a large fight involving more than two individuals. As police were leaving the station to respond to the call, they heard several shots ring out in the area. When officers arrived on the scene, they found one individual, Wesaw, dead of a gunshot wound in a parking lot on Beeson Street. Police determined Wesaw was not the intended target of the gunshot and was not involved in the fight prior to his death.

According to court testimony, the alleged shooter, Russell, was standing outside The Beeson Street Bar on the morning of the murder when he was asked to leave. He was then approached by two individuals that he knew, and an argument ensued. Russell then retrieved the AK-47 from his vehicle and attempted to shoot at one of the men, but was unable to fire his weapon, as the safety was on.

He then fled to a nearby BP gas station, around 120 yards away, while he could still hear the two men yelling and following after him. Once he was able to disable the safety, Russell told investigators that he took aim at one of the men and began firing. After the initial round of shots, Russell said he saw a man, later determined to be Wesaw, fall to the ground, but Russell did not think that he had shot him.

Russell is currently awaiting trial on first-degree murder, assault and weapons charges.

A vigil was hosted for Wesaw after the murder and fundraisers were hosted for his family. According to friends and family, Wesaw was a joyful and friendly person.

“He was a good man, and he didn’t deserve this. … It’s not fair,” said Wesaw’s niece Margaret Long at his vigil. “But, he would want us to remember the good things about him. … He was always happy and laughing. He was so funny. He would do anything for anybody. He loved everybody.”