Three men have been sentenced to federal prison after robbing a United States postal letter carrier March 17, 2022 in Columbia.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Columbia residents Don Everett Peters III, 20, and Shylik Lamont Smalls, 21, along with Elijah Rasue Dewayne Ellis, 20, of Valdosta, Georgia each pleaded guilty 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.
United States District Judge Mary Lewis Geiger sentenced Peters to seven years in prison. Smalls and Ellis were each sentenced to six years in prison. Following their prison terms, each will be on supervised release for three years. There is no parole in the federal system.
Evidence obtained in the investigation revealed that Peters, Smalls and Ellis conspired to rob a postal carrier of his arrow key, which would give them access to locked mail collection boxes. The three men robbed a letter carrier in the afternoon of March 17, 2022, who was making his rounds on Hollywood Dr. Peters waited in the getaway car while Smalls and Ellis put on masks and approached the carrier. Ellis pointed a gun at the carrier and demanded his keys. Peters then picked up the two co-conspirators and drove away.
“Robbing postal carriers for their keys is becoming a national trend, and it will not be tolerated in South Carolina,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs. “We are committed to using federal investigative and prosecutorial resources to swiftly bringing to justice those who harm Postal Service employees.”
An extensive investigation followed, including a review of numerous surveillance cameras and witness interviews. Postal inspectors linked the getaway vehicle to Peters, then linked Smalls to the crime after reviewing Peters’ prior encounters with law enforcement and cell phone records. They determined that Smalls matched the description of one of the robbers, that Smalls and Peters both had access to firearms, and 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, which took place 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. Inspectors found documentation belonging to Ellis inside Peters’ car.
Peters and Smalls admitted to being involved in the robbery along with Ellis, after waiving their rights. The two men were placed under arrest and a warrant for Ellis was issued. Ellis was arrested May 31, 2022 in Valdosta, GA, where he was found in possession of a ‘ghost gun’ and a quantity of marijuana. He admitted to being involved in the robbery, after advice of rights. Peters, Smalls and Ellis remain in custody after being federally detained following their 2022 arrests.
“Protecting the employees of the United States Postal Service is a top priority for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division. “We want to thank our law enforcement partners that worked tirelessly to apprehend these dangerous individuals.”
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 each pleaded guilty to theft/possession of United States mail.
The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Columbia Police Department. The United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force and the Lowndes County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the arrest of Ellis. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacey D. Haynes and Lamar Fyall prosecuted the case.