South Carolina

Here’s how a man robbed two banks without ever leaving his car, SC police say

Preston Emmanuel Hancock is a suspect in multiple bank robberies who was arrested Monday night.
Preston Emmanuel Hancock is a suspect in multiple bank robberies who was arrested Monday night. Greenville Police Department

Over the course of four days, a South Carolina man robbed two banks and did it without stepping foot inside either building.

Branches of BB&T Bank and The Bank of Travelers Rest were held up from the outside, as Preston Emmanuel Hancock committed the robberies from the drive-thru window, according to the Greenville Police Department.

The 23-year-old Greenville resident was arrested Monday night, hours after committing his second drive-thru bank robbery, police said.

During both armed robberies, the 302-pound man was disguised in a curly wig and a tan safari-style hat, police reported. In his silver sedan, Hancock pulled up to the drive-thru window closest to the building with a drawer, not one of the outer lanes with a tube, according to police.

Preston Hancock Gun and Disguise.jpg
Picture of a wig, hat, and gun that the Greenville Police say is believed to have been used by bank robbing suspect Preston Emmanuel Hancock. Greenville Police Department

Once he had the teller’s attention, in both robberies, Hancock “presented a note demanding money, and displayed a gun,” police said.

And in both incidents, the tellers did as they were instructed by Hancock, who left with an “undisclosed amount of cash,” police reported.

That was the right thing for the tellers to do, according to Lt. Jason Rampey, one of the lead investigators on the case for Greenville Police.

“He was using a live firearm that was loaded. The tellers followed policies and did not try to be a hero. Resisting and hesitating, it’s not worth it,” Rampey told The State. “Generally, (the bank’s) policy is to just give up the money. Don’t resist and risk harm to themselves or others.”

Additionally, Rampey said the tellers did not know if there were other people involved in the robberies, who might have attempted to enter the bank through the main entrance had they not followed Hancock’s instructions.

Rampey said there was no evidence of additional suspects being involved in the robberies, but said tellers at both banks were traumatized.

Preston Hancock Mugshot.jpg
Preston Emmanuel Hancock Greenville Police Department

Physical evidence, along with video of the robberies, helped police identify Hancock as the suspect. Although Hancock never entered the banks, he still left forensic evidence behind, which Rampey said investigators were fortunate to find because the crime scene was not a sterile environment.

Hancock was someone known to law enforcement in the area. They began searching for him on Friday, following the robbery at the BB&T Bank, according to police.

After failing to track him down at his Greenville residence, the department relayed information about the suspect and robberies to other law enforcement agencies, Rampey said. That paid off as Anderson County Sheriff’s deputies and agents with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division located Hancock on Monday night.

There was a chase, and Hancock attempted to run away after abandoning his car, but was located in a wooded area and arrested, police reported.

He was taken to the Greenville County Detention Center, where he was charged with two counts of robbery, two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm, according to jail records. His bond was set at $35,000 for the combined charges. Hancock had not been released as of Tuesday evening.

“I’m very thankful no one was hurt,” said Rampey. “In 2017, he received a 6- or 7-year sentence for trafficking drugs. I don’t know how he’s out. It’s frustrating.”

Because robbing a bank is both a state and federal crime, Rampey said he would advocate for Hancock to be tried in the court that would deliver the strongest penalty in an effort to discourage any other would-be bank robbers from attempting to commit the crime .

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.