U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Arkansas
(501) 340-2600
December 1, 2014

Garland County Jail Escapee Pleads Guilty to Firearms Charges in Connection with Hot Springs Robbery and Carjacking

HOT SPRINGS, AR—Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Derrick Estell, age 34, pleaded guilty today to two counts of Using a Firearm in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence in connection with a Bank Robbery in Hot Springs on March 1, 2013 and a Carjacking on March 7, 2013. The Honorable Susan O. Hickey accepted the change of plea in The United States District Court in Hot Springs. Estell was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal Service following the hearing.

U.S. Attorney Eldridge commented, “This Defendant held several victims at gunpoint as he continued a crime spree that terrorized the Hot Springs community. He has now been convicted of federal felonies. Such conduct cannot be tolerated in our communities, and we are committed to working together to convict individuals who commit acts of violence or put innocent citizens in harm’s way.”

According to court records, on March 1, 2013, Estell, wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt, a black ski mask, brown gloves and brandishing a small dark revolver, entered the Hot Springs Bank & Trust in Hot Springs, Arkansas and pointed the firearm at a customer, ordering the customer to the floor. Estell announced the hold up, demanded money and pointed his weapon at the branch manager, and then produced a paper bag demanding the money to be placed in it. Once money had been placed in the bag, Estell retrieved it and fled the bank. As 911 was called, employees of the bank observed Estell drive away in a vehicle that had been reported stolen from the surrounding area the previous day. The loss to the bank was over $11,000.

On March 7, 2013, officers with the Garland County Sheriff’s Office established surveillance on the Super 8 Motel in Hot Springs where they believed Estell to be staying. Officers were able to confirm the room Estell was staying in, the car he was driving, and that he was armed with at least three firearms. While investigators were attempting to isolate Estell in the motel, he emerged from a back door and fled on foot with officers in pursuit. Estell then carjacked a motor vehicle at gunpoint and took possession of the victim’s truck to continue his flight. According to the victim, Estell brandished a pistol, put it next to his side and demanded the keys. While fleeing from the officers at a high rate of speed, Estell struck at least three other vehicles before wrecking the stolen truck and running into nearby woods.

While officers were attempting to establish a perimeter around the woods, Estell was spotted running into an adjacent apartment complex where he broke into an apartment by kicking open the back door. The Garland County SWAT team and the Hot Springs Police Department officers isolated Estell in the apartment and after he refused commands to surrender, deployed gas to drive him out and ultimately took him into custody.

At the scene, officers recovered a loaded .38 revolver which was used by Estell during the carjacking and that matched the description of the firearm used in the bank robbery. In addition, officers obtained a search warrant for Estell’s motel room, in which they recovered a black hooded shirt, black neoprene ski mask, dark colored gloves that matched the clothing worn during the robbery, three other loaded pistols, and an assortment of ammunition.

The defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violations. The sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases will be less than the maximum. The mandatory minimum for the first count is seven years, and the mandatory minimum for the second count is 25 years. The maximum penalty for each count is life imprisonment.

“This is another example of the outstanding partnerships at work in Arkansas,” said David T. Resch, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI in Little Rock, “Today’s outcome is a direct result of the commitment of the United States Attorney’s Office, Garland County Sheriff’s Office, Hot Springs Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI to collaborate, to investigate, and to prosecute violent crimes.”

This case was investigated by the Garland County Sheriff’s Office, the Hot Springs Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Harris is representing the United States.

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