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story.lead_photo.caption LEFT: Surveillance image showing a robber holding up a Little Rock Bank of America. RIGHT: Tyrone Randolph, 16, who was arrested in the robbery and shooting. - Photo by Little Rock Police Department/Pulaski County sheriff's office

A North Little Rock teenager who robbed a bank and wounded the manager, while wearing a terrifying clown mask and brandishing a sawed-off shotgun, accepted a 30-year prison sentence Wednesday, rather than take his chances with a Pulaski County jury.

Tyrone Eugene Randolph Jr., 19, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, first-degree battery and felony theft in exchange for the sentence from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright. It will keep him behind bars for at least 21 years, making him parole-eligible when he is 37. The charges carried a potential life sentence.

Randolph was about three weeks shy of his 17th birthday in January 2016 when he put on the rubber mask, pulled his hoodie up and stormed into the Bank of America branch at 14519 Cantrell Road in Little Rock with a shotgun. His girlfriend had bought the weapon, and Randolph had sawed the barrel down the night before the robbery to make the firearm easier to carry.

He screamed demands at tellers, who scrambled to comply. The bank workers had to come up with a plastic grocery bag for Randolph to carry the money because he had not taken one with him.

He collected $2,947 and started back toward the door when he suddenly stopped, pointed the weapon to his left and pulled the trigger, then fled.

The bullet went through branch manager Sammy Lewis' right hand and shoulder, missing his head by inches. The projectile also went through the wall behind him to strike a neighboring building. Bank surveillance video shows that the force of the impact spun Lewis around and knocked him face-down to the floor. Lewis had been sitting behind a desk with his hands up.

Randolph's girlfriend, Jasha Marie Howard of Mabelvale, who'd been outside in a borrowed 2007 red Lexus, drove the couple away, but police caught up to them and had them in custody within 5 hours.

Howard, now 20, pleaded guilty last year to aggravated robbery, theft and furnishing a gun to a minor and was sentenced to 21 years in prison. She admitted to helping plan the holdup and buying the shotgun -- a transaction documented on store surveillance video found by police.

Randolph's father bought the ammunition and a saw blade that the teen used on the gun, which was also video-recorded, although the elder Randolph told police he had no idea what his son was going to do, according to reports.

Authorities were able to catch them so quickly because a worker across the street saw the clown-masked man go into the bank and called police. She then followed him when he came out, keeping in contact by phone with police.

The woman was able to give police the license plate number after seeing the car stop and the female driver and male passenger switch seats. Investigators discovered that the vehicle belonged to Randolph's mother.

Randolph cooperated with police and always claimed that the shotgun went off by accident. He said he had intended to fire the gun into the ceiling when he left. He later told his story under oath to the judge in a bid to be tried in juvenile court, but his petition was rejected.

Randolph told police that he robbed the bank because he thought he had just gotten Howard pregnant and needed money to pay for the costs of a baby. He said he was worried about how he could support a family because he was 16, jobless and not enrolled in school.

Howard was not pregnant.


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Metro on 05/18/2018

Print Headline: Teen gets 30 years in clown-mask robbery

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