Accused pleaded guilty to charges
A federal judge has sentenced a man to 16 years in prison for the armed robbery of a casino in Mississippi last year that subsequently led to the shooting of a local police officer.
William Christopher Belk received the sentence on Friday after previously pleading guilty to robbery and using a firearm during a crime of violence. The scene of the incident was Bok Homa Casino, a gambling facility on the Choctaw Indian Reservation and close to Sandersville.
pointed the firearm at a security officer and proceeded to take numerous items before fleeing
According to prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, the 33-year-old Belk entered the casino on July 9, 2020 with a handgun. He pointed the firearm at a security officer and proceeded to take numerous items before fleeing the property in a resort vehicle.
Officer suffered non-life-threatening injuries
Miguel Grimaldo, a part-time Sandersville Police Department officer, spotted the resort vehicle at a gas station near the casino and tried to arrest the suspect. Belk shot him in the face and arm while attempting to escape. Grimaldo, who is also a Jones County Sheriff’s Department deputy, received hospital treatment for his non-life-threatening injuries.
robbery, using a firearm during a crime of violence, and stealing from an Indian gaming facility
Police officers in nearby Laurel eventually arrested the suspect at a Walmart following a chase. At the time, Belk received charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Last August, a federal grand jury indicted Belk for robbery, using a firearm during a crime of violence, and stealing from an Indian gaming facility. In February this year, Belk pleaded guilty to the first two of these charges.
In the official news release about Belk’s sentencing, Acting US Attorney Darren LaMarca praised the Choctaw Police Department of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the FBI for their work on the case.
Not an uncommon occurrence
Incidents of theft and shootings are not uncommon at casinos across the United States, with some more serious than others. In March, two men received life sentences for their roles in a January 2018 armed robbery and shooting inside an illegal internet casino in Bakersfield, California.
While nobody died, the robbers shot at a security guard as they tried to flee the scene. The guard got hit by two bullets, receiving non-life-threatening injuries. Speaking about the reasoning behind the life sentences, Kern County DA Cynthia Zimmer said: “The life sentences in this case are a proper reflection of the serious criminal history of the offenders as well as the extremely violent actions of the crimes they committed.”
In a more recent shooting incident, a gunman killed two people at Oneida Casino in Green Bay, Wisconsin on May 1. Police shot the attacker dead after they arrived on the scene. The authorities believe that this was not a random attack, saying the shooter was targeting a specific person who worked at the facility.