Suspect in murder of Miss. convenience store clerk had faulty ankle monitor
TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – The suspect in the shooting death of a Tupelo convenience store clerk is in jail with no bond - but there are many questions about the case.
The suspect, Chris Copeland, had prior felony convictions but was placed on house arrest after violating parole.
Six days after he was shot and killed during a robbery at the Chevron Food Mart where he worked, friends and family of Primvar Singh turned out for a candlelight vigil honoring the memory of the 33-year-old who came to the United States in search of a better life.
Tupelo Police Chief John Quaka spoke briefly during the vigil, promising justice for the Singh family and hoping the crime will spark a change throughout the area.
“I pray this is the event that sets Tupelo and Lee County into the mindset that enough is enough,” Chief Quaka said.
Singh was behind the counter the morning of September 11 when security camera video caught the last moments of his life.
Singh is approached by a suspect, identified by police as Copeland. Police say Copeland, a convicted felon, points a gun at Singh, demanding money. The video shows Singh handing over the cash, getting on the floor when told, and even giving the suspect another bag of cash.
Police say Copeland jumps over the counter, puts the gun to the back of Singh’s head, and fires. Singh died a few hours later at NMMC. Copeland was quickly identified and was arrested as police were serving a search warrant at his last known address on Moore Avenue.
While police were able to identify Copeland through the security camera footage, along with a witness who spotted him at the Dollar General across the street before the robbery, an ankle monitor Copeland was wearing wasn’t working. We are told it either hadn’t been activated or wasn’t recharged.
That ankle monitor was placed on Copeland after his latest run-in with the law.
In November, Circuit Court Judge John White revoked Copeland’s post-release supervision on a 2018 charge of felony burglary and larceny of a dwelling. Copeland pleaded guilty to that and was given a 20-year sentence, with 17 years suspended.
Copeland was placed on five years of post-release supervision after his release, which he violated. Instead of sending Copeland back to prison, Judge White ordered Copeland to serve two years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections Intensive Supervision Program, allowing Copeland to serve his time under house arrest.
A spokesman with MDOC says Copeland made his weekly visits with his probation officer until April when the local MDOC office had a change of personnel. After that, Copeland never checked in even though he was under house arrest with an ankle monitor. He didn’t surface again until the September 11 robbery.
“We’re all hurting. Prim was a good person,” said District 6 State Senator Chad McMahan during the vigil.
McMahan says he is looking into the case to see how Copeland, who has multiple felony convictions dating back to 2015, flew under MDOC’s radar for months.
“I have been in touch with MDOC, sheriff, and police. I intend to hold a hearing locally, open to [the] public and media. It’s important to me we all get together and get to the bottom of what happened so it doesn’t happen again,” McMahan said.
MDOC is also investigating and, in a statement, Commissioner Burl Cain said, “According to our records, after consistently reporting to his probation officer each month this year, Mr. Copeland failed to appear on April 7, 2022. Our agents conducted an extensive search for Copeland for over a month, issuing a warrant for his arrest on June 6, 2022, to all local, state, and national law enforcement through the National Crime Information Center system. Copeland, however, managed to elude law enforcement for three months. MDOC’s investigation is ongoing.”
Singh’s family members wonder why a convicted felon wasn’t kept in prison.
“He shouldn’t have been out. I request whoever is up there: keep this guy off the road or give him the maximum penalty, death penalty,” said Saranjit Nagra, a cousin of Singh.
We wanted to ask Circuit Court Judge John White his reasons for putting Copeland in the ISP program instead of sending him to prison when he violated his probation. We have left three messages at his office, but he hasn’t returned our calls.
In the meantime, Singh was returned to his native India where his family gave him a traditional burial ceremony last week.
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