A federal judge told Shawn Brooks at his sentencing Friday he was lucky no one was killed in the violent, 2016 robbery spree that ended with a plan to "pop" a gas station clerk if he didn't immediately hand over money.
Nathan Ehrenberg had been counting cigarettes at Roc's Stop and Shop when he turned around and heard gunshots.
It wasn't until Brooks and Marcus Remus ran out without any money that he even realized he'd been hit by a gunshot, he told the jury at Brooks' trial in January.
"Fortunately, Remus was a scared, out-of-his league, poor shooter or you would have been facing a murder charge along with him," Chief U.S. District Judge John Gerrard told Brooks.
A fingerprint left behind on a plastic bag and DNA on the gun that an expert connected to three of the robberies through shell casings and bullets left at the scenes all tied to Remus, who testified against Brooks.
Brooks denied he had anything to do with it. But the jury found him guilty of 13 charges: six robbery counts, six gun counts and a single conspiracy charge.
"Unfortunately, this was one of the most violent crime sprees that the city of Lincoln has seen in the last few years," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods said Friday.
It all seemed unnecessary, she said.
Ehrenberg had been shot, and the suspects got away with nothing. Others were shot at for "$100 give or take," Woods said.
She said violence increased though the robberies themselves weren't more successful.
In the first robbery, at A's Stop and Shop on Nov. 29, 2016, Brooks pointed Remus' rifle at the clerk, Remus told the jury. The two traded it for a .25-caliber Bryco handgun before the next robberies, Dec. 15 at the Super C and Dec. 23 at the Git 'N Split.
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In the last three, Dec. 26 at a U-Stop, Dec. 28 at Union Bank and Trust at 68th and O streets and Dec. 30 at Roc's Stop and Shop, they fired shots when clerks and tellers didn't move fast enough, Remus said.
Jurors watched videos of each, the robbers in and out in less than 30 seconds.
"The truth of the matter is, we are confident at this point that when Mr. Brooks is in prison our city is a safer place to live, to go get gas, to make a bank deposit," Woods said.
Brooks' attorney, Nancy Peterson, said there is a tremendous amount of tragedy on both sides and it's unfortunate the potential that has been wasted in this case.
"If there was room for leniency we would beg for leniency," she said.
At the hearing, Brooks, 28, said simply "no" when asked if he wanted to say anything.
He made it clear he intends to appeal.
Gerrard said this wasn't Brooks' first rodeo, calling his record "atrocious." It includes assaults, theft, burglaries, possession of controlled substances, assaults on corrections officers, and now multiple armed robberies, he said.
Victims at each were scared to death, Gerrard said.
"Other than actually committing murder, this is the top of the chain of violence and the public needs protection from you, and they will get it," the judge said.
And he sentenced Brooks to 40 years and ordered him to pay $2,271 in restitution.
In federal prison, inmates only can get up to 56 days of good time a year, if they earn it.