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Longer sentence sought in shooting


– Prosecutors will seek more prison time for a man accused of killing a local tobacco shop owner because a gun was used in the crime.

In addition to formal charges of murder, felony murder and robbery against Jamel C. Coleman, there is now the prospect that five years could be added to his sentence if he is convicted in the robbery and shooting death of Antonio L. Niño.

Murder and felony murder each carry a prison sentence of 45 to 65 years, and robbery has a range of 20 to 50 years, according to Indiana sentencing guidelines. Felony murder means someone died while the suspect committed another felony. Under Indiana law, the use of a firearm during certain crimes means up to five years may be added to a sentence.

Coleman, 22, was arrested April 15 at a bus stop in Indianapolis after Fort Wayne police identified him as the suspect in the robbery and homicide at The Smoke House Tobacco Outlet. His initial hearing is scheduled for today in Allen Superior Court.

Tips from area residents and interviews with Coleman’s friends and family put police on his trail just a couple of days after Niño’s death April 7.

When questioned by police after his arrest, Coleman said he robbed Niño and shot him with his own gun because the one Coleman brought didn’t work, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Niño’s son told police his father always kept a 9 mm handgun in a safe at the store, which is where it stayed except when Niño was opening in the morning.

Coleman said he took between $100 and $200 from Niño and threw both guns in the river near Historic Fort Wayne, the affidavit said.

Had he not been able to rob Niño, Coleman told investigators he would have targeted the Treasure House next door to the tobacco shop.

Coleman’s wife told police last week she saw him put the clothes he had on the morning of the robbery in a box and get rid of them, but was too afraid to tell police about it when she first spoke with them in the days after the killing.

Coleman, who has convictions for misdemeanor criminal mischief and criminal trespass, was being held Wednesday in Allen County without bail.