TUPELO • A Tupelo detective said an armed robbery suspect walked up behind a compliant convenience store clerk Sunday morning and shot him in the back of the head.
Chris Copeland, 26, of Moore Avenue, Tupelo, was formally charged with capital murder, Tuesday morning in Tupelo Municipal Court. During his initial appearance, Judge Jay Weir ordered him held without bond.
Tupelo Police detective Wes Kloac said the security video from inside the Chevron Food Mart at the corner of Cliff Gookin Boulevard and South Thomas Street showed a man wearing distinctive clothing walking into the store around 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 11. Kloac said the suspect can be seen pulling a handgun out of his waistband and pointing it at clerk Parmvir Singh.
“The clerk is very gracious and even gave him a stack of money he didn’t ask for,” Kloac testified. “He opened the safe for him and gave him a bank bag.”
The video shows the suspect ordering Singh to the floor. He complied, sitting on the floor. The suspect can then be seen jumping over the counter.
“(The suspect) then walked up behind Mr. Singh and, at point blank range, executed him,” Kloac said.
According to the detective, the video shows the suspect standing over Singh’s body to retrieve the spent shell casing. He then looked at the security camera, ripped out what he thought was the DVD recorder box and fled the store, the detective said.
Before the robbery, Copeland was seen inside the Dollar General store across Thomas Street from the Chevron. On their security camera, he could be seen wearing the same olive hoodie, yellow T-shirt and colorful pajama bottoms. An employee at that store recognized Copeland and identified him for police.
Copeland, who said he has been living on the streets since last December, has prior felony convictions for burglary of an inhabited dwelling and two counts of burglary of an auto.
In calling for Copeland to be held without bond, Tupelo city prosecutor Richard Babb said the crime was “outrageous, cold and monstrously barbaric. He is surely a danger to the community.”
The judge agreed, ordering the case bound over to the next Lee County grand jury and ordering Copeland held without bond. When the case is presented to the grand jury, Copeland will face additional charges, the detective said.
Singh, 33, was carried to the North Mississippi Medical Center emergency room in grave condition. He was pronounced dead about six hours after he was shot.
Because of the security video at the two stores, Copeland was quickly identified as a suspect. Police executed a search warrant at Copeland’s last known address in Tupelo around 1:30 p.m. Sunday. A short time later, Copeland approached officers and was detained without incident.
He was booked into the Lee County Jail at 2:47 p.m. on Sunday and charged with aggravated assault, armed robbery and violation of his Mississippi Department of Corrections probation. Following Singh's death, the charges were upgraded to capital murder.
In Mississippi, a capital murder conviction has only two possible sentences: life without parole or death.