EC man pleads not guilty to shooting death of Altoona man

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January 14 – EAU CLAIRE – An Eau Claire man has pleaded not guilty in connection with the September shooting of an Altoona man on Bergen and Bellevue Avenue in Eau Claire.

Michael B. Purnell, 32, 2613 Skeels Ave., recently entered a plea in Eau Claire County Court to felonies of first-degree intentional homicide, firing a firearm from a vehicle and evading an officer, and two felonies of the first degree recklessly endangering safety.

Purnell’s next court date had not been set.

Co-defendant Xavier M. Thompson, 34, 5613 Otter Creek Court, has pleaded not guilty and will return to court on March 10.

Co-defendant Kemone T. Golden, 26, of Cadott, has not yet appeared in court. An arrest warrant has been issued against him.

The shooting took place after arguments in several taverns. The Altoona man was shot while a passenger in a car, police said.

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The victim has been identified as Christopher Conner, 39.

Golden was identified as a suspect based on calls he made to a witness on Oct. 3 while he was being held at the Chippewa County Jail on another case, authorities said.

According to the criminal complaint:

Eau Claire police were called to a shooting that occurred at 12:12 a.m. September 17 in the 500 block of Bergen Avenue.

Officers arrived and found Conner lying on the floor. A person provided assistance to Conner.

Officers saw a gunshot wound to Conner’s back, just below the shoulder blade. Conner was taken to the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire where he was pronounced dead. The bullet had hit his heart.

Immediately south of Conner’s body on Bergen Avenue, officers found a white Chevrolet Malibu that appeared to have crashed into the tree line. There were holes in the back of the car that matched bullet holes. The rear window was also shattered.

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A man approached police and said the white car was his and someone had shot at him. The man said he jumped out of his vehicle and ran because he was scared. The man said he was with Conner, his friend, and they were chased by another vehicle and Conner was shot.

Officers searched the area around the shooting. A shell casing was found on Bergen Avenue, just north of Bellevue Avenue. Eight additional shell casings were found on Bellevue Avenue, east of Bergen Avenue.

After examining the white Chevrolet Malibu, police found a bullet hole in the trunk and additional bullet holes in two boxes located in the trunk. A bullet also appeared to have hit the bumper.

Officers determined that the bullet that probably shattered the rear window after impact would have gone down.

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The interior of the passenger compartment had no bullet damage.

Police identified Purnell as a suspect. Police found his vehicle at 4:13 a.m. on September 17 on Skeels Avenue in the city of Washington.

Purnell got into the vehicle at 5:21 a.m. and led police on a chase through Eau Claire and Chippewa counties at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Purnell was taken into custody after losing a tire during the chase.

The owner of the white Chevrolet Malibu told police that he and Conner had been out together and got into a fight with some people at a tavern in Eau Claire. As they left, the man said three cars started following them. At one point, he said, his car was then shot at.

After questioning several witnesses, police identified Purnell and Thompson as the prime suspects.

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