33-Year and 15-Year Prison Sentences for Carjacking

Two dangerous men will spend time behind bars for quite some time for the criminal act of armed carjacking in Alabama.

In Huntsville, Alabama, two men were sentenced by a federal judge to prison for a May 2011 carjacking, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Maley.

Federal Judge, Karon O. Bowdre, sentenced Cameron Rashun Byrd, 19, of Birmingham, to 33 years and three months in prison; and Ernest Lashawn Starks, of Huntsville, to 15 years in prison for armed carjacking in the parking lot of Liquor Express on Huntsville University Drive.

In January, a jury convicted the two men of carjacking.  Starks was also convicted by the jury of brandishing a gun during a crime of violence and the jury convicted Byrd on separate counts of brandishing and carrying a firearm.

According to evidence presented at the trial, the victim’s car was carjacked from the Liquor Express lot on May 11, 2011 by Starks and Byrd.  The victim was forced to drive the vehicle away while Byrd held a gun to his head from the backseat.  Both Byrd and Starks threatened the life of the victim while blandishing firearms.  Also on that evening, with Starks driving in a different vehicle, they along with others, drove to the Victory Food Mart on Pulaski Pike in Huntsville, where Byrd used the handgun to commit a robbery by holding the gun to the cashier’s head while he emptied the register.

Thomas Omar Flowers, 19, of Brundige, participated in the Victory Food Mart robbery and carjacking.  He pleaded guilty in January before U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith, Jr.  All three defendants were arrested on the night of the carjacking and robbery.

Carjacking is a form of hijacking.  It is a crime where a car is stolen from the owner, mostly under duress.  Usually the carjacker assaults the owner of the vehicle, using threats of bodily harm or risk to life.  Most carjackers are armed and the threat of losing one’s life is high.

To prove a defendant committed carjacking, the state must show that the defendant:

  • Took a vehicle that was not his
  • Took the vehicle from the immediate presence of someone who owned the car or with someone in the car
  • Took the vehicle without the consent of the person present
  • Used force or fear to take the vehicle or to keep the person from resisting
  • At the time he used force or fear, intended to deprive the person of possession of the vehicle for any amount of time

With the increase in the number of carjacking attempts, the federal government stepped in and passed a law in 1992 which states if a death occurs during the commission of this crime it is to be considered a capital crime.  Almost 90 percent of carjacking attempts involve the use of weapons.

This crime has become one of the top in the nation as the number of carjacking incidents have been reported by the Department of Justice at about 49,000 per year.  Most carjacking attempts (92%) are committed when the person is alone in their car.

The areas where these attempts are made are usually parking lots of businesses and apartments, at intersections when the person stops for a traffic signal and at schools.  The carjacker is similar to other criminals in the way they look for their prey.

  • They tend to choose dark areas where there are not a lot of people.
  • They look for someone who is an easy target.
  • They look for individuals who seem weaker than they are, or who will not fight.

To protect yourself from becoming a victim of a carjacking, be extremely aware of the area in which you are driving.  Parking as close to the door as possible is another way of deterring the would-be carjacker.

When at all possible, ask a security guard or a male store attendant to walk you to your car.  The carjacker usually preys on the solitary driver.

Lock your doors as soon as you are in your car.  This will prevent someone from coming up behind the car and getting in while you are preparing to leave.  If someone does approach your car when you are safely inside, blow the horn or start it and leave immediately.  If you feel your life is in danger do not let the car become more important.  Let them take the car without a fight.  The car can always be replaced.

If you are the victim of a carjacking, immediately inform the police.  This is a felony and the perpetrator  could be imprisoned for the crime.  The odds of finding your car intact may be quite good if you let the police know as soon as possible.


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