GREENSBORO — Derrick Andre Poke just might be the unluckiest criminal in Guilford County this year.
Consider what happened when he tried to rob a Greensboro convenience store in April.
The 43-year-old ended up trapped inside the business by customers who refused to let him leave through the front door until police arrived.
And because it was his third violent felony since 1993, he set himself up for a punishment typically reserved for convicted murderers.
“You will pay the price for the crime you committed,” Guilford Assistant District Attorney David Long told Poke during closing arguments Wednesday at the man’s trial in Greensboro.
So how did Poke find himself once again the target of a prosecution?
According to court testimony: He walked into the Crown Fast Fare at 1000 S. Eugene St. on the night of April 8 and put a 40-ounce beer on the counter. But before buying the drink, he pulled out an empty 16-ounce Michelob beer bottle, smashed it on the front counter’s edge and threatened the clerk with the remaining jagged bottle neck while demanding cash.
About that time, two men entered the store, saw what was happening and began throwing store merchandise at Poke to stop him. That included the 40-ounce beer on the counter, which bounced off Poke’s head and smashed into pieces beyond him. As the customers ran to the beer cooler to get more projectiles, Poke ran to the front double door. But he slipped, and one customer got outside first. One door was locked into place, so the customer only had to put his weight against the other door to keep Poke inside.
Poke struggled and managed to get his right arm through the door. But then he couldn’t get it out. And the man pushing on the door from outside was joined by another man to keep Poke pinned. Greensboro police arrived in minutes and found Poke sweaty, tired and bleeding from a large gash on his forehead.
“Are you going to do anything when I open this door?” Greensboro officer M.M. O’Callaghan asked.
Poke shook his head no.
“I just want to get out,” O’Callaghan recalled him saying.
Police charged Poke with attempted armed robbery. On Wednesday, after prosecutors had played a store surveillance video of the robbery gone awry, it took a jury less than 15 minutes to find him guilty.
Prosecutors then said that the jury should find Poke guilty of being a violent habitual offender, a state law that provides stiffer punishment to those convicted of a series of violent felonies.
Poke had prior convictions in Cumberland County for armed robbery in 1993 and second-degree kidnapping in 2001.
A straight conviction for attempted armed robbery would have sent Poke to prison for more than 200 months, his attorney told the jury.
But as a violent habitual felon, the judge would have no choice but to give Poke the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
The jury found Poke guilty of the latter. Superior Court Judge Edwin G. Wilson Jr. sentenced Poke to permanent imprisonment.
“Good luck Mr. Poke,” the judge said before the man was led away silently in handcuffs.
Contact Eric Collins at
373-7077, or ecollins@