TROY, Ala. (WSFA) - A suspect has been arrested in the robbery and shooting death of 30-year-old south Alabama store clerk Neil Kumar.
Leon Terrell Flowers, 23, of Troy, is charged with capital murder during the commission of a first-degree robbery, according to Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas.
“Our phones were constantly ringing,” the sheriff said, while holding many details of the ongoing investigation close to the vest. The sheriff declined to provide a timeline, but said a suspect was developed “probably within hours” of the homicide.
Flowers, who is unemployed, was taken into custody Saturday morning by Troy police and placed in the Pike County Jail. Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas said the suspect was arrested without struggle.
Kumar was shot and killed Wednesday morning around 6 a.m. at the Gulf Gas Station, known as the J&S Buy Rite convenience store. The Brundidge business had only been open for minutes when the suspect came in. The crime happened a block from the city police department.
A part-time employee of the store, Kumar was also a graduate student at Troy University. Police indicated he did not put up a struggle and was shot to death at near point-blank range almost immediately after the robbery.
Law enforcement released surveillance video Thursday showing the moments before, during and after the robbery and shooting. A description of the suspect in the video was limited to a male dressed in all black, with white gloves, and armed with a gun.
Asked about how valuable the video was to the investigation, Sheriff Thomas would only say it was “very valuable,”as he smiled.
The sheriff said he didn’t know if Flowers knew Kumar before the crime, but added “you’ve seen the video. It appears he knew what time the store opened.”
The sheriff said he was not aware of any attempts by Flowers to rob any other stores on Wednesday, but said investigators are “going back and looking at past offenses and will be reexamining all of our older cases.”
Court documents indicate the suspect used a 9mm handgun, but it’s unclear if the murder weapon has been recovered.
Flowers is well known by area law enforcement. According to Pike County District Attorney Thomas Anderson, he has four felony convictions.
In 2015, he was charged with felony murder in the death of 19-year-old Mantrell Jordan. Flowers was not the assailant who actually killed Jordan. However, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
In the Jordan case, the prosecution asked that Flowers serve “north of 30 years” in prison. He was given credit for the time he served while awaiting trial and was released on probation on April 30. The district attorney said the victim’s father asked for leniency in that case.
“He served three years, in excess of three years day-for-day,” the DA stated. “And then had the balance of 15 years, which would be 12, hanging over his head while he was released on probation. But he did this during that time on probation and was only out a few months.”
“In my opinion, he shouldn’t have been out to begin with,” the DA added.
Pike County deputies last had interactions with Flowers a few weeks ago, according to the sheriff, when they encountered him one night outside a car, near a business in the county. He was not arrested during that time.
Flowers is expected to be brought before a judge for a first interview Monday morning.
Multiple law enforcement agencies took part in the homicide investigation and broke the news of an arrest Monday morning at a news conference that was attended by members of the Kumar family. The family did not speak.
“I don’t know the depths of their pain,” the DA said while point toward the Kumar family, “but I assure you our office and law enforcement here, we’re going to fight tooth and nail to try to achieve justice on your end.”
Agencies involved in the investigation included the Brundidge Police Department, Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Troy Police Department, Pike County District Attorney’s Office, Troy University Police, Pike County Coroner’s Office, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, State Bureau of Investigations and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.