Three Armed Bank Robbers Sentenced to Combined 88 Years in Federal Prison
Florence, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Lance Hardiman, Justin Pressley, and Rodrick Berklery, all 28 years old, were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the armed bank robbery of South State Bank in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on May, 4, 2016, and a follow-on high-speed chase where the defendants shot at several police officers.
Hardiman was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison after a jury convicted him of armed bank robbery, witness tampering, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and two counts of using a firearm in furtherance of crimes of violence. Pressley was sentenced to over 15 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to using a firearm in furtherance of an armed bank robbery. Berklery was sentenced to 30 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and using a firearm in furtherance of witness tampering. Chief United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell of Florence sentenced the defendants, with each sentence followed by 5 years of court-ordered supervision. There is no parole in the federal system.
Evidence presented to the court showed that on May 4, 2016, the three defendants—Hardiman, Pressley, and Berklery—armed with handguns and wearing gloves and masks, robbed the South State Bank in North Myrtle Beach. After entering the bank, Hardiman stood at the door while Pressley and Berklery fired their weapons and jumped over the counter. They forced the tellers to empty their tills into a bag, threatening the women’s lives. The men obtained over $30,000 and fled the bank. Bank employees were able to trip a silent alarm and place a dye pack in the bag, and they identified the type of car that the men got into as a silver Chevrolet Impala.
Responding to the call, a detective with the North Myrtle Beach Police Department saw a silver Impala with three men inside. The officer turned on his blue lights, and the Impala took off at high speeds. The officer followed the Impala for approximately five miles as Pressley fired an AK-47 out of the back window at the officer and Hardiman shot out of the passenger’s window. As the chase wound through a residential community, the suspects reached speeds of over 80 miles an hour while indiscriminately shooting at the officer and passing motorists.
Hardiman, Pressley, and Berklery proceeded towards Longs, where one of them lived. They kept firing at the officer, hitting his vehicle twice. One round missed the officer by less than an inch. The officer thought he had been hit and crashed his car.
The three men continued driving and encountered a lieutenant with the North Myrtle Beach Police Department, who deployed spike strips in an effort to end the high speed chase. Hardiman fired out the window at the lieutenant, hitting his car, as Berklery swerved to miss the spike strip. Berklery lost control of the car and drove it off the road. The three defendants then ran from the scene into a heavily wooded area.
A manhunt began, with North Myrtle Beach Police Department, Horry County Police Department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Myrtle Beach Police Department, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) all participating in the search. A perimeter was set, and within an hour law enforcement encountered Pressley hiding in some brush.
Tracking the other two suspects, law enforcement encountered two sets of footprints going into standing water wearing shoes. On the other side of the water, one set of footprints was still wearing shoes and the other was barefoot. Hardiman was captured several hours later walking out of the woods. He had stripped down to just shorts and had scratches and scrapes, apparently from running through brush. Berklery was captured approximately 11:30 p.m. in a junkyard wearing just his boxers and no shoes.
During the trial, it was revealed that two of the members of this robbery crew had previously robbed another bank in Horry County and a restaurant.
The case was investigated by agents of the FBI, North Myrtle Beach Police Department, Horry County Police Department, SLED, SCDNR, Myrtle Beach Police Department, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). It was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which aggressively prosecutes firearm cases. Project CeaseFire is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a crime reduction strategy originally launched in 2001 that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Turning the tide of rising violent crime in America is a top priority for the Department of Justice, which has reinstituted PSN and directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a district crime reduction strategy.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jim May of the Columbia office and Derek Shoemake of the Florence office prosecuted the case, along with Special Assistant United States Attorney and Chief Deputy Solicitor of the 15th Circuit Scott Hixson.