Armed robbery suspect nabbed

OKEECHOBEE — An armed robbery suspect was arrested Monday after area law enforcement agencies spent more than 12 hours combing through dense underbrush just north of the J&S Fish Camp on U.S. 441 S.E.

Sherman Lee Bryant, 35

Sherman Lee Bryant, 35

As many as 20 detectives and deputies from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) were joined in the search for Sherman Lee Bryant by deputies from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Okeechobee Correctional Institution K-9s and their handlers.

Bryant, 35, is accused of robbing a clerk Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Treasure Island Shell Station, 3609 U.S. 441 S.E., of an unspecified amount of cash.

OCSO Detective Cari Arnold, the lead investigator on the case, said Tuesday, Sept. 20, neither the weapon allegedly used by Bryant nor the stolen cash has been found. She went on to say no one was injured during the robbery.

Bryant is currently being held in the Martin County Jail on a felony charge of escape, along with misdemeanor charges of loitering and prowling and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence. His bond on those charges had not been set as of newspaper deadline.

It’s not yet known when he will be returned to Okeechobee County.

Ironically, while Bryant was on the run Monday he was being sentenced in absentia by Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn.

Assistant state attorney Ashley Albright said Bryant was slated to be in court Monday at 9 a.m. to be sentenced on felony charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a controlled substance (cocaine).

Mr. Albright said Bryant was allowed to be free on bond prior to sentencing because he was supposed to be working with law enforcement. The state, he added, had made no plea offer to Bryant.

“He had entered a plea without a deal but got an opportunity to get out and work with law enforcement,” added the prosecutor. “He was told by the judge if he was arrested for anything new or didn’t show up for court he could be sentenced to anything.”

Besides the two felony charges, Bryant was also charged with the misdemeanors of possession of marijuana under 20 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting a law enforcement officer with violence. He was to be sentenced to time served in the county jail of 253 days on those charges.

When he didn’t show up for court Monday, the judge sentenced him to 15 years on the gun possession charge and another 5 years on the cocaine charge. Those sentences are to run consecutively, said Mr. Albright, and are the maximum terms.

However, Bryant could yet be charged with failure to appear (FTA).

“He was to be in court at 9 a.m. I knew he was on the run and they were hunting for him,” Mr. Albright offered. “The state could still add failure to appear, even though he was already sentenced to the max. The FTA is the same as the underlying charges, so he could potentially face another 20 years.”

When asked, the prosecutor said he didn’t know when Bryant would be brought back to Okeechobee to face new charges. No charges have been filed yet regarding Sunday’s incident.

“I don’t know when he will be returned. Once I get the paperwork I’ll work with the prosecutor over there (in Martin County),” said Mr. Albright.

Bryant’s most recent problems are not his first brushes with the law.

A records check shows he was first convicted on felony drug charges in 1998. He was found guilty of sale of cocaine, possession of cocaine and sale of a substance in lieu of a controlled substance.

In 2002 he was again found guilty of sale of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to sell, along with felony charges of resisting a law enforcement officer with violence and escape.

Those convictions led to Bryant being sent to prison for a term of five years in 2005. He was released from the Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2009.

Bryant is being held in Stuart because he was arrested in Martin County. The charges he faces there are separate from what he will be charged with in Okeechobee.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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