ROCKVILLE, Md. - A masked gunman will be spending a long time behind bars after being convicted of robbing several convenience stores in Maryland.
Prosecutors said Ricardo Brooks was targeting stores overnight and threatening the clerks inside. In one case alone, he made off with about a thousand dollars in cash.
He was arrested after being pulled over by some astute officers in Howard County.
Now, the 29-year-old has been sentenced to a total of 36 years in prison.
"The judge said it in court - these are hardworking people that are working overnight, maybe their second or even third job, to make ends meet," said Montgomery County State's Attorney's spokesperson Ramon Korionoff. "Meanwhile, this suspect is sticking a gun in your face and trying to get money and items."
Brooks was charged with terrorizing overnight cashiers in at least nine convenience stores in a 3-week span last August and September.
Surveillance video from several 24-hour CVS and 7-Eleven stores shows him walking in with his face covered with a ski mask or bandana. He would threaten the clerks with a gun, and in each case, he would grab cash from the registers, shove it into a bag and make off with the money and packs of Newport cigarettes.
In one robbery, one employee tried to alert her co-workers to call 911 when his back was to her.
"People were really scared out of their wits," said Korionoff. "You can see in the surveillance video from some of these locations that they rushed to lock the door behind the defendant as he is leaving those stores because they don't want him to come back and terrorize them some more."
Brooks was convicted in three of the armed robberies in Montgomery County along with another one in Howard County.
Police pulled him over for a routine traffic stop after the Howard County incident and could tell something was wrong. The stolen cash and cigarettes were apparently sitting on the passenger seat.
Officials say the gun Brooks used was actually a pellet gun.
But with consecutive sentences of 10 and 26 years, the judges in these cases clearly took the threat he posed very seriously.
"There is a printed warning on the side of the gun that says this is not a toy, can cause severe bodily injury and/or death," Korionoff said. "When someone is sticking you up with a gun, you don't really think about - 'Is this real? Is it not?'"
Brooks was sentenced to a total of 36 years because these were considered violent crimes. He won't be eligible for parole until half of his time is served. After serving ten years in Howard County, Brooks will have to serve at least eight years in Montgomery County.