The leader of an armory heist that brought in a major haul, including machine guns, grenade launchers, rifles, pistols, night vision goggles and various other items, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison, a Department of Justice release said.
Brandon Shane Polston, 33, admitted that on Thanksgiving Day 2017, he jumped the fence at an Army National Guard base in Lancaster, South Carolina, and entered the armory when he realized one of the building’s doors was unlocked and nary a soul was present.
With the military armament world as his oyster, Polston proceeded on his very own unlimited minute-shopping-spree jaunt through the aisles, except instead of filling a cart to the brim with food or toys, he accumulated weapons to sell for cash, cocaine and some of that ol' fashioned, South Carolinian meth.
“Gear adrift,” as the saying goes.
Polston then hid the stolen arsenal in some nearby woods before transporting select items to a motel for individual sales and trades, the report said.
Some of those transactions included:
- Trading (1) 9mm pistol for heroin, which he then gave to a friend
- Selling (2) M16s for cash, cocaine and marijuana
- Selling (1) M16 to a woman for methamphetamine
Polston may have even gotten away with it had it not been for a generic traffic stop a few nights later, when an officer from the Lancaster Police Department pulled over a vehicle driven by Kimberly Denise Cannon, 40, after observing her tossing trash from the car.
Cannon and Austin Lee Ritter, 23, were assisting Polston with the transport and sales of the arsenal.
While preparing to confront Cannon about the environmental dangers of littering, the officer noticed the abundant weapons cache the 40-year-old was transporting. Among the items recovered by the officer were:
- (1) M249 Squad Automatic Weapon light machine gun
- (2) M16 rifles
- (1) M203 grenade launcher
- (1) set of NVGs
- (2) Beretta M9 pistols
- ... and a partridge in a pear tree.
All the result of a littering stop. Remember kids, littering always has consequences, and those repercussions come at you fast. One day you’re damaging the planet, and the next, you’re damaging the planet and getting caught with squad automatic weapons and grenade launchers. It’s like Gary the no trash Cougar says, “Give a larbage, throw out your garbage.”
Following the traffic stop, authorities found Polston and Ritter at a motel in possession of meth, the report said. Surveillance video from the motel showed Ritter, Cannon and Polston moving the weapons from a vehicle to the motel room, and cell phone searches revealed transcripts of drug and weapon transaction negotiations.
State Law Enforcement Division agents, upon investigating the armory’s security, found that an outer armory door remained unlocked. Additionally, the weapons vault was not secured and none of the weapons racks were locked.
You had one job, armorers.
Polston, who had been released from prison just months before the armory heist, was sentenced after pleading guilty to possession of machine guns and a destructive device not registered to him.
Ritter and Cannon were sentenced in November to 87 months and 24 months, respectively, after entering the same guilty pleas as Polston.
Some of the weapons have not been recovered.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.