Sheriff: Armed robbers arrested after 2-state chase

Published 8:21 am Monday, December 31, 2018

Three suspects, wanted in connection with an armed robbery in Washington Parish that left a convenience store employee badly injured with a gunshot wound, are now in custody.

On Friday, the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office issued warrants of arrest for Lance Rouse, 870 Liberty Road, Picayune, Miss.; Levi Lee, 17, 426 Mt. Carmel Road, Carrier, Miss.; and Melisa M. Smith, 67 Burch Road, Tylertown, Miss., for armed robbery and attempted first-degree murder.

Lance Rouse

After the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office, along with the Pearl River County (Miss.) Sheriff’s Office, learned their location in Pearl River County, officers started an area-wide search for the individuals, WPSO Chief Deputy Mike Haley said. The suspects took flight from the state of Mississippi, traveling through the state of Alabama.

“Alabama law Enforcement authorities were already on the look out for the individuals,” Haley said. “As the subjects entered Montgomery County, Alabama, their Sheriff’s Office attempted a traffic stop and a pursuit began that ended with spike strips being used to stop the vehicle. The subjects were arrested as fugitives from Washington Parish, plus the charges they incurred in Alabama.”

Haley said that the arrests came as a result of an initial investigation into a business burglary and attempted murder of the employee at the J & Z Quik Stop, located on Highway 21 North in Bogalusa. Officers and detectives of the WPSO arrived on the scene, collected evidence and then processed the crime scene.

Haley said that detectives were able to quickly identify the armed robbers who committed the offense. The video evidence shows that the employee was outside the business doing his daily routine as the suspect vehicle pulled into the parking lot, Haley said.

Melisa M. Smith

“Two armed suspects got out of the vehicle carrying shotguns and confronted the employee,” he said. “An altercation occurred and the employee was shot with a shotgun blast. The suspects then walked past the wounded employee, went in the business and took cash and merchandise from the business and drove away.”

Haley said Saturday evening that the victim was listed in critical condition, and if he does not survive, new charges of first-degree murder will be applied.

Extradition proceedings will begin to return the suspects to Washington Parish to stand trial.

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal commented on the arrests.

“I am so pleased these robbers are in custody. I give my heartfelt thanks to Sheriff David Allison and officers of the Pearl River County, Miss., Sheriff’s Office as well as Sheriff Derrick Cunningham and officers of the Montgomery County, Ala., Sheriff’s Office. I give special heartfelt thanks to our wonderful Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives who were able to solve this crime quickly,” Seal said. “Our officers exemplify the best that law enforcement has to offer and I am so honored to have them work for me.

“My heartfelt sympathy goes to the victim and his family. This was a heinous crime committed by very callous individuals who are now in custody where they belong. It is a mistake for any person to think he or she can commit a crime in Washington Parish and not feel the full force of our investigators who use all available resources to reach out to law enforcement agencies throughout Louisiana and other states.”