Daily Press

Suffolk man shot by customer during 7-Eleven robbery spree sentenced

Brookins gets 25 years for 2019 heist that left accomplice dead

- By Jane Harper Jane Harper, jane.harper @pilotonlin­e.com

A Suffolk man was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison for his role in a string of 7-Eleven robberies that ended with him and an accomplice getting shot by a customer. The accomplice died at the scene.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith issued the sentence to Ronald Lee Brookins Jr. during a hearing in Norfolk federal court. Brookins, 22, pleaded guilty earlier this year to multiple robbery, firearm and conspiracy charges. Federal law required that he receive at least 21 years.

Brookins was 18, a high school graduate and had recently completed basic training with the Navy when the robberies occurred, according to defense attorney Richard Doumar. He had no criminal record. Multiple friends, family members and former Navy co-workers wrote letters to the court on his behalf, describing him as a smart young man from a good family.

“This case is just baffling to the court,” the judge told Brookins after reading excerpts from the letters out loud. “There was no reason for you to do what you did. Endangerin­g other people’s lives and terrorizin­g them for what? Some cigarettes and a few bucks.”

Brookins apologized to the court, the robbery victims and his family before the sentence was handed down.

He told the judge he also struggled to understand why he would take part in something so “stupid and selfish.”

The five armed robberies occurred in July 2019 at 7-Eleven stores across Hampton Roads, and the spree ended at a store on South Newtown Road in Virginia Beach.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bird played surveillan­ce footage from each of the robberies during Thursday’s hearing but didn’t show the part where the customer with a concealed handgun fired at the robbers. The customer’s actions were later determined to be justified, and he wasn’t charged.

The video clips showed Brookins and friends Michael Moore III and Deric Simons entering the stores armed with guns and wearing hoodies pulled over their heads and around their faces. One robbery took place in Newport News, two were in Norfolk and two in Virginia Beach. The spree lasted a little over two hours.

The customer who fired the shots, who was 37 at the time, didn’t attend Thursday’s hearing. He later said he had gone to the store to get a Big Gulp and was walking to the cash register to pay when the robbers rushed in and pointed guns at him, the store’s clerk and two customers standing at the counter. The customer said he fired at the robbers because he feared for his own life as well as the other customers and clerk.

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