COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA —Don Everett Peters, III, a/k/a “Pop,” 21, and Shylik Lamont Smalls, a/k/a “Mitch,” 22, both of Columbia, and Elijah Rasue Dewayne Ellis, a/k/a “Smoke,” a/k/a “Black,” 21, of Valdosta, Georgia, have each been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the March 17, 2022, armed robbery of a United States Postal Letter Carrier in downtown Columbia.
Peters, Smalls, and Ellis each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery of a United States Postal Letter Carrier, assault/armed robbery of a United States Postal Letter Carrier, and theft/possession of a United States Postal arrow key. Peters and Smalls also pleaded guilty to theft/possession of United States mail.
Evidence presented in court showed that on the afternoon of March 17, 2022, after surveilling another postal carrier in the Hollywood-Rose Hill/Rosewood area of Columbia, the trio decided to rob a letter carrier making his rounds on Hollywood Drive. While Peters waited in the getaway car, Smalls and Ellis—while wearing masks—approached the carrier. Ellis pointed a gun at the carrier and demanded his keys. Peters then picked up the two co-conspirators and they fled the area.
After an extensive investigation, including review of numerous surveillance cameras and interviewing witnesses, law enforcement authorities linked the getaway vehicle to Peters. After a review of Peters’ prior encounters with law enforcement and cell phone records, postal inspectors were able to link Smalls to Peters. They determined that Smalls matched the description of one of the robbers, that both Smalls and Peters had access to firearms, and that Smalls was in possession of clothing matching the description of the clothing worn by one of the robbers.
Search warrants were obtained for Peters’ and Smalls’ apartments and vehicles and executed on May 4, 2022. Smalls was found with the stolen arrow key in his pants pocket. Investigators also recovered stolen mail, check making materials, several electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops, and two privately made firearms, which are commonly known as “ghost guns.” One ghost gun was found in Peters’ bedroom and the other in Smalls’ bedroom. Inside Peters’ car, Inspectors found documentation belonging to Ellis.
After waiving their rights, both Peters and Smalls admitted to being involved in the robbery, along with Ellis. Peters and Smalls were placed under arrest and a warrant was issued for Ellis. On May 31, 2022, Ellis was arrested in Valdosta, Georgia, where he was found in possession of a “ghost gun” and a quantity of marijuana. After advice of rights, Ellis admitted to being involved in the robbery with Peters and Smalls. All three have been in custody since their 2022 arrests.
“Make no mistake, we will bring all of our federal resources to bear when our postal carriers are robbed,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs, “Postal carriers are an integral part of our communities, and we are thankful for the residents who provided critical information as a part of this investigation and those who stood by the carrier at the sentencing hearing.”
“The sentences imposed in this case exemplify the unending dedication of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to protect the employees of the United States Postal Service. When our employees are victims of robberies and assaults, we do not stop until we identify those responsible,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service. “We extend our appreciation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their support in this case.”
United States District Judge Mary Lewis Geiger sentenced Peters to 7 years in prison. Smalls and Ellis were each sentenced to 6 years in prison. Following their prison terms, each will be on supervised release for 3 years. There is no parole in the federal system.
This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Columbia Police Department. Additionally, the United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force and the Lowndes County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office assisted in the arrest of Ellis. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacey D. Haynes and Lamar Fyall prosecuted the case.