Three suspects accused of robbing and firing guns into a North Myrtle Beach bank before leading police on a high speed, gunfire-ridden car chase and nine-hour manhunt through the woods around Watertower Road were denied bond Thursday.
Lance Roderick Hardiman, 24, of Longs, along with Rodrick Leland Berklery and Justin Alexander Pressley, both 25 and of Little River, face 40 charges, collectively, ranging from bank robbery and kidnapping to attempted murder.
At least one home on Grovecrest Circle in Barefoot Resort and several cars, including two patrol cars, were damaged in the spray of bullets that officers say came from the suspects as they fled from police. No one was injured and all three men were apprehended without further gunfire.
“It was a little scary, but thankfully nobody was hurt,” Brian Mahlert said at his home on Grovecrest Circle, where a round shattered a window above his back door.
He was in his garage when he heard gunshots and said he saw police speed by his home in pursuit of the suspects, but didn’t realize a bullet had penetrated his home until about 30 minutes after hearing shots ring out.
Prosecuting attorney Scott Hickson said the terror that unfolded around the incident Wednesday and the suspects’ behavior “indicated extreme indifference to human life and posed a danger to our community.”
I am of the opinion at this time that I cannot safely allow you to be out on bond while this matter is working its way through the system.
Blake Martin, North Myrtle Beach municipal court judge
Police say the trio, wearing masks and brandishing firearms – entered the South State Bank at 606 Main St. demanding money around 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Witnesses told police the men had semi-automatic handguns and fired two shots when they entered the bank. One round entered the ceiling and another went into a wall near the teller’s counter, according to an incident report.
Hickson said the suspects then forced people down on the floor at gunpoint.
“One of the suspects appeared to be standing guard at the front entrance to the bank while the other two suspects jumped over the counter and demanded money,” according to the report. The suspects “advised bank employees that they would put the money in the bag to avoid the clerks from giving them the dye bags.”
No one inside the bank was injured during the robbery. The suspects fled in a silver Chevrolet Impala heading south on U.S. 17, under the hot pursuit of North Myrtle Beach police.
Officers responding to the bank found a “drawstring backpack that was filled with what appeared to be cash in the roadway,” according to the report. Cash around the bag was stained red by an exploded dye pack and police noted the odor of the dye still fouled the air around the discarded bag.
The getaway car continued through the Barefoot Resort community with suspects firing at officers and at random motorists during the car chase, North Myrtle Beach spokesman Patrick Dowling said.
The pursuing officer reported being shot at by a suspect with an assault rifle. The gunfire damaged the officer’s patrol car, causing him to temporarily lose control of the vehicle, according to the report.
No one was injured and officers did not return fire during the chase, Dowling said.
The pursuit continued into the area of Watertower Road and Long Bay Road where the suspects also fired shots at North Myrtle Beach police Lt. Tommy Dennis’ patrol vehicle as he attempted to deploy stop sticks, according to the report.
The suspects’ vehicle lost control at the spike strip and crashed into a ditch along Watertower Road. The three suspects then exited the car and ran into the woods on foot. Shots were reportedly fired from the wooded area as the suspects were fleeing, according to the report.
The escape sparked a manhunt, leading to road closures and a heightened sense of security in the surrounding community that ticked on into the night.
Handcuffed and shackled, Berklery, Pressley and Hardiman shuffled into a North Myrtle Beach city courtroom Thursday afternoon to hear the 40 charges they faced.
Each suspect is charged with criminal conspiracy, possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, pointing or presenting a firearm, two counts of assault and battery in the first degree, kidnapping, wearing a mask to conceal their identity, bank robbery, discharging a firearm into a building, discharging a firearm into a vehicle, failure to stop for a blue light and two counts of attempted murder.
Pressley also faces a charge of possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number.
Berklery questioned the kidnapping charge and asked the judge if it wasn’t a natural reaction to run from police who are chasing you, adding that he was hypothetically speaking.
“I don’t know if it’s natural or not, but it’s not natural to me,” said Judge Blake Martin. He added that anyone being pursued should always stop and comply with police and work out the questions of fairness regarding that stop in court.
It was a little scary, but thankfully nobody was hurt.
Brian Mahlert, whose home was shot during the car chase Wednesday
Martin denied the suspects bond Thursday. He noted that the allegations of a chase with shots fired at officers, other motorists and cars being run off of the road led him to suspect the three would be a flight risk and a “danger to the community.”
Hardiman questioned why they were given no bond if the charges against them were merely allegations.
“Because I have to determine as a judge whether or not I think you can safely be let out on bond and be expected to return,” Martin said. “I am of the opinion at this time that I cannot safely allow you to be out on bond while this matter is working its way through the system.”
Berklery, Pressley and Hardiman told the judge they would decide on an attorney at a later date.
Several agencies aided in the manhunt, including K9s and helicopters from the State Law Enforcement Division.
Pressley was captured about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the wooded area of Long Bay Road and Kerchies Road. Hardiman was found in an abandoned residence in the vicinity about 6:30 p.m. Berklery was apprehended in the woods just south of Long Bay Road and west of Watertower Road about 9 p.m.
Officers erupted with cheers and shouts of glee with the final suspect’s capture.
On Thursday a single police car sat guard outside South State Bank keeping an eye on the business, which was operating normally with a steady flow of customers coming and going.
Dozens of flower arrangements and baked goods were dropped off steadily throughout the day Thursday to show support and comfort to bank employees. Bank officials said they were thankful no one was harmed and grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.
Bank employees went through counseling on how to cope with the wide range of emotions stemming from the robbery. Employees also gathered for prayer Thursday, bank officials said.
Officials at the bank said they were very appreciative that police, county officials, and other agencies came together so quickly and efficiently to capture the suspects, which gave them greater peace of mind.
“It was just nice seeing everyone being so resilient and having such a strong spirit,” customer Jennifer Feeney said after leaving the bank Thursday.
She said there was a strong spirit of gratitude inside and she was also grateful the suspects were captured.
“It was like having church,” she said of being inside the bank Thursday. “Everyone is just rejoicing, and thankful just for the officers.”
J.R. Shinault, another bank customer, said he was planning on coming to the the bank Wednesday around the time the robbery took place to make a deposit, but got busy with work and never made it. He said he was surprised when he found out about the incident.
“It was a shock, especially all the running and shooting,” he said.
Shinault said he’s been banking with the South State Bank for 15 years and has never heard of anything like Wednesday’s robbery happening there.
“It’s just too much,” he said. of the incident.