Police arrest couple accused of snatching purse, shooting at mother and son at Riverside shopping center

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Lanika Shantel Williams (L) and Jermaine Lavelle Wheeler (R) are seen in photos released by the Riverside Police Department on May 18, 2021.

Lanika Shantel Williams (L) and Jermaine Lavelle Wheeler (R) are seen in photos released by the Riverside Police Department on May 18, 2021.

A man and woman accused of snatching a woman’s purse and then shooting at her and her adult son at a Riverside shopping center have been arrested, police said Tuesday.

Riverside police officers responded to the Canyon Crest Towne Center, located in the 5200 block of Canyon Crest Drive, at about 4:20 p.m. Monday to a call about a possible armed robbery and shooting, the Police Department said in a news release.

The victim, who police described as “elderly,” was walking to her car with her adult son when a woman got out of a light green BMW X5 and demanded her purse, police said.

The female suspect was identified by police as Lanika Shantel Williams, 32, of Los Angeles.

“Ms. Williams pulled the purse from the victim, who then tried to fight off Ms. Williams. The victim’s son also tried pulling the purse from Ms. Williams’ grasp when she produced a black revolver and fired one shot at their heads, narrowly missing both victims,” Officer Ryan J. Railsback, a public spokesperson for the Riverside Police Department, said in the release. “Ms. Williams once again demanded the purse and stole it from the elderly victim.”

After stealing the purse, police said Williams got back into the passenger seat of the BMW, which then sped away from the scene.

The victim and her son were not injured in the shooting, police said.

The BMW was later found in the 14000 block of Indian Street in Moreno Valley and surveillance was conducted. When officers approached the vehicle, the driver got out and ran but officers and Riverside County deputies were able to take him into custody.

He was identified by police as Jermaine Lavelle Wheeler, 34, of Moreno Valley.

Williams was in the passenger seat and also taken into custody.

According to police, Wheeler was found to be in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest.

“During a search of the suspect vehicle, officers located the victim’s purse and money, along with the revolver believed to have been the gun Ms. Williams fired at the victims,” Railsback said.

Williams and Wheeler were arrested and later booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center on suspicion of armed robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted murder, and various weapons violations, police reported.

Wheeler also faced possible charges of resisting arrest using violence and obstructing police.

Both are currently being held on $1 million bail.

“It’s disheartening to think these two criminals felt empowered to come into our city in broad daylight to steal a purse and almost murder two of our community members,” Larry Gonzalez, chief of the Riverside Police Department, said in a statement. “Our hope is for these suspects to feel the full weight of the justice system through actual consequences that matter.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect day of the week that the incident occurred. The post has been updated.

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