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The Adams County sheriff’s and Berne police departments collaborated to quickly arrest four suspects in the alleged recent attacks on members of the Amish community in the Berne area, according to Adams County Prosecutor Chris Harvey
Three people now face multiple felony charges, including armed robbery, and a fourth is facing a conspiracy charge.
David Veliz, 19, and Alejandro Lopez, 18, both of Fort Wayne, and Brady Rodriguez, 17, who is a minor but has been remanded to adult court, all face one count of armed robbery, three counts of attempted armed robbery, three counts of criminal confinement, and one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Michelle Rodriguez, mother of Brady Rodriguez, of Berne, faces one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Harvey said it is believed that last Monday, Michelle Rodriguez was preparing to move to Fort Wayne and told her son, Brady, along with Veliz and Lopez, that she needed money to complete the move and to purchase drugs.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Rodriguez instructed the three teens to rob members of the Amish community for the needed money. The three teens allegedly left in a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx and drove the vehicle to a rural area of Berne, where they allegedly pulled in front of Amish buggies, blocking the buggy’s path and forcing the driver to stop.
The teens then allegedly approached the buggies wearing gas masks and carrying baseball bats, demanded money from the occupants and, in at least one instance, used the bat to strike a minor riding in a buggy.
During the course of the investigation, the sheriff’s department received a description of the vehicle. One victim reported scraping the rear driver’s side door with the buggy’s wheel, which is painted black, while attempting to flee, according to the probable cause report.
The sheriff’s department issued a “be on the lookout” for the vehicle, which was spotted by Berne police as it was being driven by a woman known to them as Michelle Rodriguez, with Brady Rodriguez riding in the passenger seat.
On Tuesday, Berne police went to the home of Rodriquez and discovered the vehicle, which was later identified by all four robbery victims as the one used in the attacks, parked on the south side of Rodriguez’s mobile home, according to the report.
Adams County Sheriff’s Detective Lieutenant Gary Burkhart reported that a second victim stated that the vehicle, traveling the same direction as the buggy, approached from behind, passed the buggy, quickly moved back in front of the buggy, and stopped abruptly. The driver of the buggy, which is painted black and was occupied by a woman and three small children, was unable to avoid a collision and struck the back passenger side of the vehicle. The driver of the buggy reported the rear passenger door opened upon impact and never closed as the vehicle drove away, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Yet another victim had told authorities that a vehicle quickly passed his buggy, then abruptly came to a stop. The driver of the buggy said he attempted to go around the vehicle, but as he did the driver of the vehicle began to move in front of the him, trying to force him to stop.The victim said two men jumped out of the vehicle, wearing masks over their faces and carrying baseball bats.
The victim then turned the buggy around and fled in the opposite direction, turned into a driveway and drove the buggy to the back of the house, and the homeowner let him into her home. While he was fleeing, the victim said the two young men chased the buggy down the road, according to the report.
Another victim reported that a vehicle passed the buggy she was driving, then “blocked the road” in front of her. The victim said two men, one carrying a baseball bat, got out of the vehicle and demanded money. The victim refused and attempted to drive past the two masked men and as she passed, the suspect with the bat swung the bat striking her on the right upper leg, according to the report.
The victim also stated that as she reached the vehicle, the driver got out of the car and demanded money. She gave the driver what money she had but was unsure of the amount.
Upon interviewing Michelle Rodriguez, Adams County Sheriff’s Detective Lieutenant Gary Burkhart reported that Rodriguez said Lopez, Veliz, and possibly Brady Rodriguez, left her home in the Malibu to go shopping. When the teens returned, the vehicle had a large scrape or gouge on the rear driver’s side door, a large scrape with black paint on the right rear passenger side quarter panel with a large dent that prevents the door from closing, and a large dent on the right rear bumper area, also with black paint, according to the report.
While interviewing Veliz, Burkhart reported that Veliz said that he, Lopez, and Brady Rodriguez all left the Rodriguez home in the Malibu, eventually going into the rural areas of Berne. Veliz said as he was driving the vehicle, it abruptly stopped for some unknown reason on a county road, at which time a buggy driven by woman with three small children rear-ended Malibu. Veliz said he asked the woman for directions back to Berne, which she provided, according to the probable cause affidavit.
While interviewing Lopez, Burkhart reported that Lopez said Michelle Rodriguez told Brady Rodriguez, Lopez, and Veliz that they didn’t have any money, which they needed to get to Fort Wayne and to purchase cocaine. Furthermore, Lopez said Rodriguez told the three teens to “go rob the Amish” to get the money they needed for the move and drugs, according to the report.
Lopez described for Burkhart what went on during the alleged robbery attempts, the report explained.
Lopez said he believed the masks and baseball bats were still in the vehicle. While conducting a search of the vehicle on September 19, Burkhart recovered two gas masks from the vehicle, according to the affidavit.