Man arrested in connection with robbery in Elkhart released from jail

Three men were arrested July 5 after police were dispatched to two Elkhart businesses for reports of robberies. 

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 6:41 p.m.

An earlier version of this story had a headline indicating Akheem Purnell was arrested in connection with the robbery of Saleh’s Market. He was actually arrested in connection with the robbery of RWD Sales. The Truth apologizes for this error. 

ELKHART — One of three men arrested on suspicion of attempting to rob an Elkhart business during the Fourth of July weekend was released from jail after the prosecutor’s office declined to file formal charges. 

Akheem Purnell, 20, of Elkhart, was arrested along with Robert Smith and Leonard Taylor Saturday evening, July 5, after the Elkhart Police Department responded to reports of a robbery at Saleh’s Market, 401 Middlebury St. and RWD Sales, 508 Oakland Ave.

Taylor has been charged with attempted robbery while armed with a deadly weapon, a Level 3 felony, and criminal recklessness, a Level 6 felony. Smith is charged with attempted robbery while armed with a deadly weapon. 

Purnell, initially arrested for disorderly conduct and attempted robbery while armed with a deadly weapon, was released from the Elkhart County Jail.

According to initial reports, the Elkhart Police Department was dispatched at about 4:37 p.m. to Saleh’s Market for reports of a robbery. Two men reportedly entered the store with a gun and fired two shots. 

Less than a year ago two men attempted to rob Saleh’s Market, killing the owner of the shop and an employee there. The suspects, Richard Gross and Kevin Moore, were convicted of two counts of felony murder.

According to the probable cause affidavits for Smith and Taylor’s arrest, detectives talked with the store clerk, who said one of the men walked to his security glass window, pulled a silver handgun out and demanded money. The other man stayed at the entrance, as a lookout. 

The clerk ducked behind the counter and began calling 911 while the suspect fired the handgun from under the pay slot. Shortly after, the suspect ran out of the store. 

Police looked at surveillance video from the store and saw a man wearing a sweatshirt with yellow writing on the front. 

At 5:49 p.m., police were dispatched to RWD Sales for reports of a robbery. Police retrieved notes from dispatch, which said a silver handgun was displayed during the robbery. 

The owner of RWD sales told police he saw three men enter the store and walk around for 10 minutes. The men went toward the back of the store, where another man was located and one of the suspects pointed a gun at him.

The owner walked to the back of the store and after a confrontation the three suspects left. The victims were able to give police a description of the vehicle the suspects were driving. 

About 12 minutes later, police found the vehicle parked behind an apartment in the 700 block of Marion Street. Two of the suspects, who matched the description the owner of RWD sales gave police, were sitting in the front porch.

After talking with the homeowner in the apartment downstairs police began searching the house. 

According to the probable cause affidavit for Purnell’s arrest, he attempted to walk into the house during the search. When an officer asked him to step away from the scene, Purnell began yelling and became verbally aggressive.

Other neighbors began congregating around the scene and Purnell was handcuffed. According to the affidavit, Purnell told officers at the scene that if he sees them in a park, he would beat them up. 

Inside the apartment, police found a third suspect attempting to hide. 

Taylor, Smith and Purnell were taken to the police station for questioning. Taylor and Smith partially admitted to being involved in both robberies that evening. Purnell refused to speak with police and requested to speak with his attorney.

Smith and Taylor remain booked in the Elkhart County Jail on a $150,000 bond. Their initial hearing in Elkhart’s Circuit Court is scheduled for July 17 at 8:30 a.m., according to court files.

Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Sharon Hernandez on Twitter at @Sharon_HT

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