By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The suspect nabbed in connection with Monday’s robbery of a Renasant branch in Tupelo admitted holding up three other banks since August to fuel a drug habit of marijuana and pills, investigators said Tuesday.
Brian P. Jones, 35, of Toney, Ala., was charged with robbery late Monday by the Tupelo Police Department. He’s being held at the Lee County jail on a $1 million bond set Tuesday by Justice Court Judge Rickey Thompson.
“Due to your past convictions and criminal history, I’m concerned about the public’s safety,” Thompson told Jones during the bond hearing, noting the suspect has prior felonies in Alabama.
Jones’ record includes convictions for burglary and narcotics, said Tupelo Police Investigator Matthew Wiginton during a brief press conference Tuesday outside Justice Court.
Since his arrest, the suspect has been cooperative and allegedly told investigators he robbed the banks to feed his drug habit, Wiginton said.
Authorities believe Jones held up four Northeast Mississippi Renasant Bank branches: the North Gloster Street branch in Tupelo on Monday, the West Market Street branch in Booneville on Friday, the Veterans Boulevard branch in Tupelo in September, and the Highway 25 Renasant Bank branch in Iuka in August.
In each case, a lone white male wearing a baseball cap entered the bank sometime after 4 p.m. and claimed to have a gun. He then demanded cash from a teller and fled with the money.
No one was injured in any of the incidents.
Booneville Police Chief Michael Ramey said Jones will be charged with the Booneville heist after he posts bond in Tupelo.
“He has admitted to the Booneville bank robbery,” Ramey said, adding that his investigators interviewed Jones at the Lee County jail on Tuesday.
Iuka Police Chief Randy Stringer said his department plans to present its own charges against Jones to the grand jury and suggested the FBI might get involved.
Stringer said about $4,500 was stolen from Iuka. It wasn’t known how much was taken in the other heists.
The suspect apparently targeted Northeast Mississippi because it’s far enough from his home that no one would recognize him. Toney, Ala., is in the Decatur-Hunstville metro area.
Had he not returned for the final heist Monday, Stringer said, authorities might have never caught him.
“We had his picture on everything but a milk carton,” Stringer said. “No one knew him.”
In the end, a vehicle provided the missing clue. Witnesses in the most recent robbery said they saw the man enter a silver Toyota Tacoma with an Alabama license plate. Tupelo Police put out an alert on the vehicle to other law enforcement agencies in the region.
Based on the Tacoma’s description, Tishomingo Sheriff’s Department deputies stopped Jones later that day on the Natchez Trace Parkway. They found marijuana and pills in his car and charged him with two misdemeanor counts of drug possession, said Sheriff Glenn Whitlock. Police in Tupelo, Iuka and Booneville then swarmed in to question him.
Renasant Bank spokesman John Oxford said he appreciates the quick response of the many law enforcement agencies and the cooperation of the residents who spotted the suspect’s vehicle.
“The most important thing is that no one was hurt,” Oxford said. “The security of our clients and our employees is always the most important thing.”