NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The three suspects wanted in connection with an armed bank robbery Wednesday morning in North Myrtle Beach had all been taken into custody by the late evening hours Wednesday. Officials say charges are still pending against them, and bond hearings will be scheduled after warrants have been issued and served.
The suspects were identified as Roderick Leland Berklery, Lance Roderick Hardiman and Justin Alexander Pressley, according to NMB Spokesperson Pat Dowling. Lt. Michael Swarthout with the North Myrtle Beach Police Department said the third suspect was apprehended somewhere in the woods off of Water Tower Road without incident at 9:15 p.m.
All officers are okay and no civilians were hurt, Swarthout said.
The suspects were armed and wearing masks during the robbery, and one suspect appeared to be standing guard at the front entrance while the other two jumped over the counter and demanded money, the incident report states. Employees told police that no one was injured during the robbery, but two of the suspects had fired at least two shots upon entering the bank: one into the ceiling, and one into the wall near the teller's counter. All three suspects were armed with what appeared to be handguns.
The suspects told bank employees they would put the money in the bag themselves to keep employees from giving them dye bags, but apparently, a dye bag was still used, as police later responding to the bank saw a drawstring backpack filled with cash that appeared to be covered with red dye. The odor of the dye bag's explosion was still apparent in the area, the incident report states.
After the robbery, the suspects fled in a car south on U.S. 17 and fired toward officers during the pursuit, which went through Barefoot Resort, officials said. Two North Myrtle Beach Patrol cars were hit by bullets fired by suspects, Dowling confirmed. The pursuing officer saw that an assault rifle was the firearm being fired at him.
The suspects' car was stopped by stop-sticks somewhere near Water Tower Road, and the suspects fired shots at the police lieutenant's patrol car as he attempted to deploy the stop-sicks. The suspects' vehicle then traveled off the roadway, and they fled into the woods in an area that was later cordoned off by police, Dowling said.
Shots were fired by the robbers, but police did not return fire, Dowling said. A gun was found at the crash scene, but the men fired from the woods as well, so they were still considered armed.
People living in Barefoot Resort said they watched the police pursuit go past them and one man said shots were fired in his direction.
"When I looked at the gun, it was directly at me," said Melvin Fields, who lives in Barefoot Resort.
Fields said he thinks the bullets went straight through the inside of his car because his windows were rolled down. None of the bullets hit his car or him.
"I think they were shooting at people randomly to get away. Anything they could stop," he said. "There was a car directly in front of me after I got to that intersection that already had its tires shot and had been shot at."
A helicopter from the State Law Enforcement Division was deployed during the search of the wooded area, along with K-9 tracking units and a SWAT team. Federal law enforcement also responded to the scene, along with assistance from Horry County Police and the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
As of 5:51 p.m., two suspects, Pressley and Hardiman, had been located, the incident report states. Pressley was located in the wooded area of Long Bay Road and Kerchies Road, and Hardiman was found in an abandoned residence near the area.
At about 9:30 p.m., law enforcement located Berklery, the third suspect.
Officials advised residents to avoid Water Tower Road from Highway 90 to Links Drive due to police activity. Riverside Elementary, near the search area, ceased all outside activity, and everyone was safe inside the school, according to Principal Vicki Underwood.
The next steps
As of Thursday, morning, all three suspects remain in the North Myrtle Beach jail, with multiple charges pending against each of them, Dowling said. The focus for law enforcement now is drafting warrants and obtaining a search warrant for the suspect vehicle. NMB officials are conferring with the Horry County solicitor and the Horry County Police Department, and warrants will be presented to a judge later Thursday.
The time and place for a bond hearing for the suspects will be determined after the warrants are issued and served, Dowling added.