Three Convicted in Federal Court Following Armed Bank Robbery and Car Chase in North Myrtle Beach
Florence, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that three defendants—Lance Hardiman, Justin Pressley, and Rodrick Berklery—were convicted in federal court for robbing the South State Bank in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in May 2016.
Hardiman stood trial this week in United States District Court in Florence before District Court Judge R. Bryan Harwell. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts: 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.
Evidence presented during the trial 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.
Following his conviction by a unanimous jury, Hardiman faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years to run consecutive to any other sentences imposed and a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. Judge Harwell will sentence him after receiving and reviewing a presentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office. Pressley pled guilty to using a firearm in furtherance of a bank robbery and witness tampering and agreed to a 25-year federal prison sentence. Berklery pled guilty to using a firearm in furtherance of a bank robbery and in furtherance of witness tampering and agreed to a 30-year sentence.
U.S. Attorney Lydon stated, “We will always support our local and state partners in ensuring that the most dangerous criminals are held accountable for their actions. This investigation, manhunt, and prosecution was the result of many wonderful agencies working in unison to ensure that the guilty were caught and convicted.”
Chief Deputy Solicitor for the 15th Circuit Scott Hixson said, “The case was successful due to the courage and persistence of all involved. From the bravery of the tellers, to the officers who chased and disabled the defendants, to the numerous agencies who participated in the manhunt – this outcome would not have been possible without so many people in the community coming together to hold the violent individuals accountable for their acts. We would like to thank our federal partners in FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their dedication to ensure a just outcome occurred.”
Chief Joseph Hill of the Horry County Police Department commented, “Although I was not Chief when this incident occurred, it remains that the men and women of law enforcement continue to keep their community safe in the most hazardous conditions. I’m very proud of the cooperation of every agency involved in the successful apprehension and prosecution of these very dangerous men. Every day, law enforcement officers stand ready to protect and serve, no matter the risk, to keep our community safe.”
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.