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Carolina man sentenced for stealing machine gun, grenade launcher from National Guard armory

South Carolina Army National Guard Lancaster. (Google Maps/Released)

A man who entered and robbed a South Carolina National Guard armory through an unlocked door and traded his bounty of weapons for drugs and money was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the Department of Justice announced Monday.

Brandon Shane Polston, 33, of Lancaster, S.C., pleaded guilty in July to the charges stemming from the crime — being a felon in possession of firearms and possession of machine guns and a destructive device not registered to him, according to a news release from the department’s South Carolina district.

During the investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Lancaster Police Department and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Polston admitted, on Thanksgiving Day 2017, he jumped the fence of the armory in Lancaster, where he found the building unsecured and no one present. Seizing the opportunity, Polston stole firearms and other items and hid them in nearby woods.

The release stated he stole a M-249 light machine gun; M-16 rifles; two Beretta M-9 pistols; a Colt M203, 40mm grenade launcher; night-vision goggles, and various military items.

Polston traded the weapons for drugs for three days, including one 9mm handgun for heroin, which he provided to a friend. He also sold two M-16s in exchange for money, cocaine and marijuana. Another M-16 was traded for methamphetamine.

Though Polston stole the items himself, he later enlisted the help of Kimberly Denise Cannon, 40, and Austin Lee Ritter, 23. On Nov. 26, 2017, a Lancaster Police Department officer pulled over Cannon for throwing trash from a car. Inside the car, the officer found multiple weapons and equipment missing from the armory.

From the traffic stop, police were able to track down Polston and Ritter, who were located at a Lancaster motel with a small quantity of meth. A review of surveillance video from the motel showed Polston, Ritter and Cannon bringing the bags containing the firearms back and forth between the vehicle and the motel room. Searches of their cell phones revealed various photos and text messages relating to the firearms and sale of the firearms.

While some of the stolen firearms were later recovered in possession of other felons, other firearms remain missing, the release stated.

Ritter and Cannon, both of Lancaster, were sentenced in late November after pleading guilty in June, the release stated. Both pleaded guilty to the same charges as Polston. Ritter was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. Cannon was sentenced to two years in prison.

The heist came just nine months after Polston was released from a South Carolina prison for other weapons-related convictions.


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