Downtown Niles purse-snatcher sentenced to prison

Published 1:22 pm Monday, June 5, 2023

NILES — The Indiana man who robbed an elderly woman outside a downtown Niles church will be spending the next seven plus years in prison after being sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court.

Antoine Lamar Dallas, 34, of Peru, Indiana, pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery and was sentenced to 86 months to 15 years in prison with credit for 71 days already served. He must pay $258 in fines and costs.

The unarmed robbery and purse snatching took place outside of the New Journey United Methodist Church at Third and Cedar Streets on April 14, 2022. Dallas was riding a bike past the church and grabbed the purse of an 80 year old woman. She fell down in the incident. Dallas jumped off his bike and struggled with the woman to get the purse before riding off.

The incident made local news last spring as police released a surveillance tape of the incident in hopes of identifying her assailant. Dallas was eventually arrested after police tested his shoe that had fallen off in the struggle and DNA testing by the Michigan State Police identified him as the suspect.

Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Kate Arnold noted that this was Dallas’ fourth robbery conviction since 2009. “Clearly he assaults and takes from people,” she said. “In this case, he injured an elderly woman and dislocated her shoulder. He also caused trauma and she’s scared to go out by herself in broad daylight.”

Monday, Dallas apologized for his actions. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life that I’ve regretted but they don’t hold a candle to the same and regret I feel for that day,” he said. “There are a million things I could have done differently. I have to live with the fact that she’s in fear because of my actions. I couldn’t sleep for months after the incident.”

He maintained that while this was the worst of the “stupid decisions” he’s made in his life, he didn’t target the woman because she was elderly. “Nothing I can say can change what happened, there’s no justification,” he said. “I didn’t target her, I just snatched the purse, I didn’t know she was an old woman. I’m very sorry for what I did.”

Defense attorney Kaitlin Locke said Dallas was under the influence of drugs and alcohol the day of the incident and checked himself into rehab afterwards. She asked for a lower prison sentence of five years or less. “He’s completely full of remorse, he feels a lot of guilt over what he did,” she said.

Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith told Dallas that he was well spoken and called it a shame that he’s made the choices he has. “Understand that my sentence is not because I hate you but because you are a danger to the community with your actions,” she said. “I can’t assume you’ve changed but my hope is that you truly mean your words.”

“I have to look at your prior record, you have four robbery convictions,” she said. “In this instance, if she had been in a group of people or was a large man, you wouldn’t have done this. Then when she tried to hold onto her purse, you caused her injuries.”