CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. sentenced Franklin Earl Lawrence, Jr., 50, of Gastonia, N.C., to 141 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for bank robbery and firearms offenses, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Robert M. DeWitt, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in North Carolina, and Chief Trent Conrad of the Gastonia Police Department join U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.
According to court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, on August 19, 2021, Lawrence robbed at gunpoint the Truist bank branch located at 3070 Union Road in Gastonia. Court records show that Lawrence entered the bank wearing a hat, wig, and glasses, approached a teller, pointed his loaded firearm at the teller and demanded money. After the teller complied, Lawrence turned to a second teller, pointed his firearm at her and demanded more money. The teller handed her cash over to Lawrence and the defendant fled the scene. Officers with the Gastonia Police Department tracked Lawrence at a nearby field. When the officers approached Lawrence, the defendant threw his firearm at the direction of one of the officers before he was arrested. At the time of the arrest, officers recovered from Lawrence’s fanny pack the shirt, hat, wig and glasses Lawrence wore during the robbery, as well as a loaded pistol and the money the defendant stole from the bank.
On February 24, 2022, Lawrence pleaded guilty to bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during, and in relation to, and in furtherance of a crime of violence. He is in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.
The FBI and the Gastonia Police Department investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Hess of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. In 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.