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Elkhart County Walmart reopens, one suspect in suspicious incident identified

Joseph Gerber

Gerber is facing charges of unlawful possession of a police radio, carrying a handgun without a permit, obliterating identifying marks on a handgun and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

ELKHART COUNTY — Two people were detained and another is at large after an employee at the Walmart on U.S. 20 in Elkhart County near Osceola said a person was seen putting on a bulletproof vest in the parking lot.

Police say they found a handgun in the vehicle.

One of the men taken into custody was identified as 37-year-old Joseph Gerber of Warsaw.

Gerber is facing charges of unlawful possession of a police radio, carrying a handgun without a permit, obliterating identifying marks on a handgun and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

A second suspect is a white male, age 28, who had a warrant for his arrest from the US Marshal's service for a  weapons related charge and dealing in methamphetamines.

Local charges could include conspiracy to impersonate a public servant and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Broadcastify sound specified a "suspect has a law enforcement Halloween costume."

Around 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department was called to the Walmart on Old US Highway 20 in Elkhart.

"We just received a call from the store manager and there was an older male putting a 62 [knife] in his side along with the bulletproof vest," says the Elkhart County dispatch, through Broadcastify sound.

Seeing something and then saying something: employees at the Walmart were vigilant and acted immediately.

"One of the guys pulling on a bulletproof vest as he was walking in," recounts Angela Tice.

Tice was on her way to work at the Smart Style Salon inside the building, when she saw something a little scary.

"I tried to go in, and there was crime scene tape everywhere, police tape everywhere," she says. "It's in the back of your head that something could happen like that and you could not be coming home to your family."

When officers arrived they found Gerber and another suspect in a vehicle with a gun in plain sight.

A third subject had entered the store.

Deputies evacuated the store and blocked off the entrance. St. Joseph County and Indiana State Police responded to the scene as well.

"It just scares you that someone would come in ready for a fight, you know, with a bulletproof vest on him in a place like Walmart, " says Melissa Ball, who was out shopping this morning.

Officers could not find the third suspect inside the store or nearby, and later confirmed through video the subject had already left the store.

The store reopened just around noon.

Ball says, these days, you never know what's going to happen.

"It just reminds you to keep your eyes open no matter where you are. It could be a Walmart, a grocery store, on the street," she explains. "You have to be prepared no matter where you are. You almost feel like you're in a war-zone and you shouldn't be in America."

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