Crime

He couldn't stop getting high, so Gulfport man robbed a Subway hoping for life in prison

On Tuesday, Robert S. Thomas he stood before Circuit Court Judge Lisa Dodson and pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery.a
On Tuesday, Robert S. Thomas he stood before Circuit Court Judge Lisa Dodson and pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery.a Courtesy to the Sun Herald

The armed robber walked into the Gulfport Police Department and confessed.

Three days earlier, he held a gun on a mother and daughter working in the Subway sandwich shop on U.S. 49 in downtown Gulfport. He told them to give him all the money from the register, which amounted to about $500.

He wanted the money so he could get high on crack.

When he walked out, Robert S. Thomas said, "Tell the police I'll be in the The Quarters," a historic community just west of downtown.

He kept waiting for the police to find him, but they didn't, so he turned himself in Sept. 4.

On Tuesday, he stood before Circuit Court Judge Lisa Dodson and pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery.

The District Attorney's Office recommended that Thomas serve one day short of life, the maximum sentence.

"He said (to police) that he could not function in society and wanted to go back to prison for the rest of his life," prosecutor Matthew Burrell said.

Thomas, 45, has spent much of his adult life in prison for stealing. In fact, he was released just three months before the armed robbery.

He told the judge that he had been an angry and depressed young man when he discovered crack at 28 years old. He had given up on God.

The last time he was released from prison, Thomas promised himself he would return if he went back to crack.

Before he robbed the Subway, Thomas said he went to Walmart. He picked up a BB gun that looked like a handgun and shoplifted a drill. He sold the drill for crack, got high and walked around for a couple of hours.

Then he went to Subway. He chose a BB gun because he didn't want to hurt anyone. He ordered a drink and sat down, hoping the two customers would leave. They did, but another came in.

Thomas said he went back to the counter and ordered cookies. When the young lady opened the register, he told her to give him the money. She froze.

The other woman working at the Subway, who happened to be the mother of the young lady, came over and helped get the money out, putting it into a bag Thomas held.

Thomas planned to commit suicide by crack. When that didn't work out, he went to the police station. His attorney, Angela Blackwell, told Dodson that Thomas suffers from bipolar disorder.

In response to Dodson's question, he said he never realized that he had been self-medicating with the crack. He's on an anti-depressant now.

Dodson calculated he might have 19 years or so left to live, based on actuarial tables. She sentenced him to 15 years in prison and ordered him to get a GED diploma while he is there.

Anita Lee can be reached at 228-896-2331or @CAnitaLee1
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