Get­away driver gets 21-year sen­tence

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - JOHN LYNCH

The teenager who bought the shot­gun her clown-masked boyfriend used to shoot a man dur­ing a Lit­tle Rock bank rob­bery was sen­tenced to 21 years in prison on Mon­day.

Jasha Marie Howard, 19, will be al­most 30 by the time she qual­i­fies for pa­role. She pleaded guilty to ag­gra­vated rob­bery, theft and fur­nish­ing a gun to a mi­nor ear­lier this month for her role in the Jan­uary 2016 holdup at the Bank of Amer­ica branch on Cantrell Road. She apol­o­gized be­fore Pu­laski County Cir­cuit Judge Herb Wright im­posed sen­tence.

“I would like to apol­o­gize for my ac­tions,” a tear­ful Howard said, de­scrib­ing how the past 13 months in jail have taught her to be more care­ful about who her friends are and to ap­pre­ci­ate her fam­ily more.

The holdup was recorded on bank surveil­lance and shows a clown-masked rob­ber storm­ing into the build­ing wav­ing the weapon and de­mand­ing money.

After tellers sur­ren­dered $2,947, even pro­vid­ing a bag for the rob­ber to carry the cash, the rob­ber ap­peared to be leav­ing the bank, the video shows.

But he stops, lev­els the weapon and fires it, seem­ingly right at the bank man­ager who was seated be­hind a desk with his hands raised.

The slug wounded the man in the right shoul­der and nearly sev­ered his right fin­ger, nar­rowly miss­ing his head. The slug pen­e­trated the bank wall and lodged in the build­ing next door.

Howard and Ty­rone Eu­gene Ran­dolph were caught about 4 hours later after 1/2 a by­stander fol­lowed their flee­ing car and was able to give po­lice enough in­for­ma­tion for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to track the cou­ple down. They both con­fessed, with Ran­dolph, then 16, telling po­lice the shoot­ing was an ac­ci­dent.

De­fense at­tor­ney Bill James asked Wright for the min­i­mum 10-year sen­tence, cit­ing Howard’s re­morse at what she’d done, her dif­fi­cult home life and and her lim­ited role in the rob­bery — she never went inside the bank and didn’t do any­thing to cause Ran­dolph to fire the gun.

But pros­e­cu­tor Scott Dun­can ar­gued that Howard de­served at least 20 years. Howard ad­mit­ted to help­ing plan the holdup with Ran­dolph, hoped to get enough money to get out of Arkansas at least tem­po­rar­ily, and drove Ran­dolph to and from the bank, Dun­can said.

“This was not a crime of op­por­tu­nity,” Dun­can said. “This was a bank rob­bery where the man­ager was shot.”

But most sig­nif­i­cantly, Howard was the one re­spon­si­ble for arm­ing Ran­dolph, the pros­e­cu­tor said. She bought the .20-gauge shot­gun Ran­dolph used, then watched him saw the gun down the night be­fore the rob­bery, Dun­can said.

If Ran­dolph, who was 16 at the time, had not had a gun when he stormed into the bank, man­ager Sam Lewis wouldn’t have been shot, Dun­can said.

Lewis, who now works at a dif­fer­ent branch, tes­ti­fied that it took him 4 months to re­cover enough to re­turn to work.

The 45-year-old man­ager showed the judge his bent right in­dex fin­ger, stat­ing that he’s about to un­dergo his third surgery as doc­tors try to straighten and re­store mo­bil­ity to the digit. Fol­low­ing the surgery will be “very ex­cru­ci­at­ing” re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, Lewis told the judge.

A fin­ger might seem in­signif­i­cant to some, Lewis said, but the in­jury makes it harder for him to get dressed, tie his shoes and hold onto work­out equip­ment. It’s also pre­vent­ing him from be­ing able to hold his nieces and neph­ews, Lewis said.

He re-en­acted the way he was hold­ing his hands up when he was shot, show­ing how the slug missed his head by a cou­ple of inches.

“It could have gone ei­ther way,” he said. “A near-death ex­pe­ri­ence will change your life.”

Aside from the phys­i­cal wounds, Lewis said he has been emo­tion­ally trau­ma­tized. He said he lives his life wait­ing to be robbed again, a type of anx­i­ety he never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore he was shot.

“It’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore it hap­pens again,” Lewis said. “It’s just changed the way I view peo­ple.”

Bank clerk Shunda Canada told the judge she too wor­ries daily about an­other rob­bery, say­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence has made her much more leery of any­thing out of the or­di­nary, even if it’s just some­one who just has his hands in his pock­ets.

“You just panic at every lit­tle thing that’s dif­fer­ent … com­ing through the door,” she said.

Canada, who still works at the Cantrell branch, told the judge she was ter­ror-stricken when the gun-wield­ing masked man burst into the bank and headed for her sta­tion.

“I started scream­ing, scream­ing, scream­ing, scream­ing,” she said.

Howard’s par­ents both asked the judge for le­niency, tes­ti­fy­ing that Howard was truly re­pen­tant for what she’d done. They de­scribed her as a good girl led astray by bad in­flu­ences. Both She­lese Howard, 40, and Ja­son Dean Howard, 37, cried as they told the judge about how they’d be­come es­tranged from Howard. The cou­ple di­vorced in May 2003 after about six years of mar­riage and two chil­dren.

Ja­son Howard, a Pine Bluff po­lice of­fi­cer, told the judge he’d tried to keep his daugh­ter away from bad in­flu­ences. Howard said he never met Ran­dolph be­fore the bank rob­bery.

He said they’d been re­build­ing their re­la­tion­ship since her ar­rest.

“I was more of the dis­ci­plinar­ian. They wanted their free­dom and I guess, for awhile, they had it,” he said. “I told her that’s why I used to be so hard on them so they wouldn’t end up like this.”

She­lese Howard told the judge that her daugh­ter’s time in jail has also given them an op­por­tu­nity to patch things up.

“My baby girl is back,” she tes­ti­fied. “I think God every­day that I have a daugh­ter like her.”

She told the judge she had tried to warn her daugh­ter that Ran­dolph was a bad in­flu­ence but couldn’t get the girl to lis­ten to her.

“I felt like he turned her against me,” she tes­ti­fied.

Ran­dolph has tes­ti­fied to what he did dur­ing the rob­bery. He is cur­rently ap­peal­ing the judge’s rul­ing deny­ing his mo­tion to be pros­e­cuted in ju­ve­nile court.

“I was more of the dis­ci­plinar­ian. They wanted their free­dom and I guess, for awhile, they had it. I told her that’s why I used to be so hard on them so they wouldn’t end up like this.”

— Ja­son Howard, fa­ther of 19-year-old Jasha Marie Howard, who was sen­tenced to 21 years in prison for her role in a Lit­tle Rock bank rob­bery

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