Central Texas man sentenced for 2 bank robberies

John Russell Lightner. (File photo)
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COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) A Copperas Cove man was sentenced to federal prison Thursday for two bank robberies and for violating rules of supervised release after his first bank robbery conviction six years ago.

U.S. District Judge Alan D. Albright Thursday sentenced John Russell Lightner to serve 24 months on the violation of supervised release charge, then 72 months, to be followed by three years on supervised release, both to be served concurrently, imposed a $1,000 fine, ordered him to pay $9,351 in total restitution and $100 in special assessment to the court.

An affidavit filed in the case shows at 9:45 a.m. on April 6, 2018, a man walked into the First National Bank, located at 4304 B East Central Texas Expressway in Killeen, approached a teller station and presented a note to the teller that said: "Don't do anything stupid, give me your money".

During investigation the teller described the man who gave her the note as “a black male with a muscular build, wearing a black wind breaker, blue jean pants, a dark color hat and sun glasses,” the affidavit says.

The teller reported that the robber said nothing during the encounter.

But using bank surveillance video, investigators were able to capture images of the robber, who matched the description given by the victim teller, as well as surveillance video from nearby businesses that showed the robber leaving the bank and getting into a white Hyundai Elantra, then leaving the area.

On May 8, 2018, the same man walked into the H-E-B store, located at 601 Indian Trail in Harker Heights, approached the teller at the inside bank counter and presented a note instructing the teller to empty her cash drawer.

Cameras recorded the man leaving the area in the same white Hyundai Elantra.

Police identified Lightner through a Crime Stoppers tip and because a security employee at the H-E-B told officers he recognized Lightner.

Lightner earlier was convicted for a 2012 Bank Robbery in Copperas Cove.

Just after 10 a.m. on Sept. 27, 2012, a man approached a bank teller Fort Hood National Bank, at 210 Constitution Drive #B, in Copperas Cove, presented a demand note, and displayed a handgun.

The teller provided the suspect with cash and the suspect then fled on foot, but, again, surveillance video led investigators to a residence at 1702 Sherman Dr. in Killeen, where officers found a car that fit the description of the one shown driving away after the robbery.

Investigators soon connected the vehicle to Lightner, who upon questioning admitted he’d robbed the bank because his girlfriend needed money to pay her bills.

Later police were able to prove that the girl friend, Michelle Jean Portwood, actually had been the getaway driver for two of the holdups.

Lightner’s sentence in that case was the same, imposed by now retired U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr., who on March 13, 2013 sentenced Lightner to serve 72 months in prison, five years supervised release, pay a $1,000 fine, $2455 in restitution and $100 special assessment.

It was that sentence, for which Lightner still was serving supervised release, that resulted in the revocation.

On the same day Smith pronounced sentence for Portwood on an aiding and abetting charge, for which she served six months in prison, three years on supervised release, paid a $1,000 fine, $2,455 in restitution and $100 in special assessment to the court, records show.