Walmart arson suspect’s death ruled suicide

Published 7:27 am Friday, January 17, 2014

The death of Niles Walmart arson suspect James Erik Turns, 31, has been ruled a suicide by the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office.

What follows is a detailed case report that was released by the St. Joseph County, Ind. prosecutor’s office on Thursday:


Earlier this week, store employees advised police that a person had entered the Niles Walmart on Sunday morning. While in the store, that same person set fire to merchandise in the store, stole a number of electronics and fled the store. Although the incident was captured on video surveillance, the perpetrator had worn a mask.

Berrien County detectives obtained numerous leads, indicating that the perpetrator was Turns.

The detectives traveled to Granger and spoke with Turns at his home on Tuesday. Initially, Turns denied being involved in the arson and theft.

Eventually, however, Turns admitted to committing these acts. He stated that he had attempted to do the same thing on Saturday, but became scared and fled before setting anything on fire. He further stated that on Saturday, he decided to carry out the crimes and set fire to the merchandise in order to distract employees and get away.

Turns was able to give some of the merchandise he stole from Walmart to the Berrien County officers. After making these admissions, Turns fled from the officers into the surrounding Granger neighborhood. Officers from a variety of jurisdictions joined the Berrien County detectives in the search

At one point, Turns attempted to gain entry to an unoccupied vehicle. A neighbor confronted Turns, who then brandished a handgun. This neighbor withdrew from the confrontation and contacted law enforcement. After obtaining his information, police dispatched to officers that Turns was armed and had brandished a weapon while attempting to enter a vehicle.

At approximately 9:30 p.m., a St. Joseph Police officer saw Turns running behind a home in the Bridlewood Subdivision. The officer came upon Turns and saw him attempt to open the back door to the home. After Turns attempted to open the back door of the home, a canine officer grabbed onto Turns rear torso.

At this point, the St. Joseph Police officer noted Turns carrying a handgun in his right hand. The officer ordered Turns to drop the handgun.

Instead, Turns looked at the officer and placed the handgun against his own head. Before the officer could react, Turns pulled the trigger, discharging a single shot to his own right temple area.

An autopsy confirmed that Turns died as a result of a single gunshot wound to his head. His death has been ruled a suicide.