Metro-East News

East St. Louis man finds lawn furniture to be a bad hiding place

Stetson Culpepper
Stetson Culpepper Provided

An East St. Louis man was arrested early Sunday after police say he robbed a couple at a Swansea convenience store.

According to a Swansea Police Department news release, a couple was at the BP gas station, 1614 North Belt West, at 12:30 a.m. Police said a man approached the couple and motioned with his hand in his pocket. He told the couple that he would shoot them if they didn’t comply with his wishes, police said. The couple told police they gave him some money, but he forced them inside to the store’s ATM. A witness at the store saw what happened and flagged down a member of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department who was stopped at the intersection in front of the store.

When the officer pulled into the parking lot, the man fled the scene on foot. Officers with the Swansea and Belleville police departments searched the area. The man was found behind a residence in the 2000 block of North 17th Street. Police said the man was trying to hide under some lawn furniture. While the man was being arrested he threatened to shoot an officer in the face. Police said the man tried to kick the windows out of the squad car he was placed in.

On Monday, St. Clair County State’s Attorney charged Stetson T. Culpepper, 25, with three felonies — aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery and threatening a public official — and one misdemeanor, resisting arrest. Judge John Baricevic issued an arrest warrant for Culpepper and set his bail at $500,000. Culpepper is being held in the St. Clair County Jail.

“Swansea Sgt. Jason Frank, (St. Clair County) Sheriff’s Sgt. (Kenneth) McHughes, and all the officers did a professional job of catching a violent suspect,” Swansea Police Chief Steve Johnson said. “They also showed amazing restraint when faced with a homicidal suspect. A neighbor who lived next door to the arrest heard everything and sent me the following message: ‘Thank you to all the officers that responded last night. The suspect was belligerent and combative. They handled the situation professionally; it could have been a completely different situation. Thanks for all that you do!”

If convicted, Culpepper faces up to 15 years in prison. According to the St. Clair County Circuit Clerk’s website, Culpepper’s case has “pending grand jury actions.”