Police make quick arrest in security officer murder
South Bend IN March 8 2023 Officials say a man has been arrested and charged in connection with the deadly shooting of a security guard at a parking garage in South Bend on Sunday night.
Derrick Pratcher, 33, of Elkhart was arrested in Vandalia, Mich., on Monday night. St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter says charges against Pratcher were filed on Tuesday morning.
Pratcher is charged with murder, unlawful carrying of a handgun, unlawful carrying of a handgun as a felon, and firearm enhancement. If found guilty of that firearm enhancement, he could be sentenced to an additional five to 20 years.
According to charging documents, officers were called just after 11:20 p.m. on Sunday to the Wayne Street parking garage in the 100 block of E. Wayne Street to investigate a report of shots fired. When they arrived, they found a man, identified as 62-year-old Robert Pulliam, Jr., with a gunshot wound to the head.
Pulliam was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy later confirmed that Pulliam died as a result of that gunshot wound, and the pathologist ruled his death as a homicide. Officers also learned that Pulliam worked as a security guard for the garage.
Police later found the witness who called 911, who they say is employed as a Venues and Parks Ambassador and was working that night, along with a partner. Both witnesses told officers while they were patrolling city-owned property, they entered the garage and encountered a man, later identified as Pratcher, on the first floor.
Both witnesses say Pratcher was driving a new, dark-colored Kia Sportage with a Florida license plate, and that he was loitering around the Venues and Parks Ambassador vehicles that were parked in the garage. That’s when they approached Pratcher and asked him if he needed anything.
After Pratcher reportedly told them that one of the vehicles in the garage belonged to a family member, both witnesses drove out of the garage. After one of the witnesses left for the night, the other witness who later called 911 parked across the street from the garage and continued to observe Pratcher.
The witness then observed Pratcher going up to other vehicles in the garage that belonged to the City of South Bend, so he notified Pulliam, the security guard who was working at the garage on Sunday night.
The witness told officers that he and Pulliam approached Pratcher as he was still loitering around the vehicles and spoke to him. Ultimately, Pulliam told Pratcher to leave and that he was trespassing.
During this interaction, the witness says he saw Pulliam take a photo of the Kia that Pratcher was driving,. The witness says he then walked away to call 911 for assistance.
“He helped solve his own crime. You’re talking about someone that served this country. He was a Marine. He had the foresight to know and recognize the situation that he was in. Took a picture of the vehicle and that helped solve this crime,” said Captain Jason Biggs with the South Bend Police Department.
As the witness walked away, charging documents stated that Pulliam turned his back to Pratcher to use his cell phone to call 911. That’s when Pratcher allegedly pulled a handgun from his satchel bag and shot Pulliam in the head.
“He shot him from behind. He shot him when he was turned away. So, whether or not a person had a weapon or not would have made zero difference in this case,” Cotter said.
Officers arrived on scene a short time later to find that Pratcher and the Kia he was driving were no longer in the garage. They recovered Pulliam’s phone and sent it to the St. Joseph County Cybercrimes Unit for analysis.
The Cybercrimes Unit was able to confirm that Pulliam had taken a photo of the Kia. This photo also was able to capture the license plate number.
Officers also obtained video from various cameras in South Bend. In doing so, officers were able to confirm that a black Kia Sportage bearing a Florida plate with the same plate number as found in the photo was seen leaving the parking garage immediately after the shots were fired and prior to the arrival of law enforcement.
A BMV search of the Florida license plate showed it return to a Kia Sportage owned by Hertz Rental Car Agency. Officials at Hertz confirmed that Pratcher had been renting that same Kia since Feb. 13, 2023. Officials at Hertz also advised that Pratcher used his driver’s license to rent that vehicle.
On Monday afternoon, location technology showed that the Kia was in Vandalia. Cass County Sheriff Deputies responded to that location and found the Kia in a park, with Pratcher as the sole occupant of it.
“I can’t emphasize enough how proud I am of the investigators and frankly the community who came forward to be able to help us solve this case,” Cotter said.
“This is how our team is able to solve crimes here in South Bend, and we are grateful for the speed in which we were able to move on this particular one,” said South Bend Mayor James Mueller.
According to charging documents, officers located a handgun in the Kia. An expert firearm and toolmark examiner then compared a shell casing located next to Pulliam’s body in the parking garage with shell casings test fired from that handgun recovered from Pratcher.
The expert also compared a spent projectile found in the garage with projectiles test fired from that same handgun. According to the expert, the shell casing and projectile found in the garage were fired from the handgun recovered from Pratcher.
During an interview with officers, Pratcher admitted that he had been in the Wayne Street parking garage on Sunday night in his rented Kia. He further admitted that the firearm was his.
While Pratcher denied that he encountered anyone in the parking garage, he confirmed that no one else was in possession of either the Kia or the firearm that was used to kill Pulliam.
Pratcher is currently being housed at the Cass County Jail and must be extradited to face charges in St. Joseph County, Ind. He has a court appearance on Wednesday in Cassopolis.
The full charging documents and probable cause affidavit for Pratcher are available to read in their entirety below:
The announcement of the arrest and charges in this case was made during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at the South Bend Police Department. To watch the full conference, click on the video below: