On Monday, September 18, 2023, the case of the State v. Andy Darrell Flournoy and Benjamin Keith Lester, was called to trial in the Superior Court of Spalding County. In lieu of a trial, Andy Lester entered a plea to three counts of Armed Robbery, one count of Aggravated Assault, and one count of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
He was sentenced 30 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation.
Flournoy’s co-defendant, Benjamin Lester, entered a plea to three counts of Robbery as a lesser included offense of Armed Robbery. He was sentenced by the Honorable Ben D. Coker in the Spalding County Superior Court to serve 8 years in prison followed by 12 years of probation.
The State was represented by Assistant District Attorney Audrey D. Holliday. The Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, led by K9 Officer Logan Smith, investigated this case.
At approximately 10:00 PM on April 13, 2023, Flournoy, who was armed with a handgun, and Lester entered the Valero gas station located at North Expressway and Birdie Road in neighboring Spalding County wearing masks, and at gunpoint they ordered the store clerk and the store cleaner to the ground in an armed robbery.
While Lester kept control of the store cleaner, Flournoy would point the handgun back and forth between the initial two victims to control their movements.
Flournoy then ordered the store clerk to give him all the money in the register and to give him her cell phone. Lester ordered the store cleaner to hand over his cell phone as well.
During the armed robbery, a customer entered the store and Flournoy pointed the gun at him, ordering him to the ground.
Just prior to the armed robbery, K9 Officer Logan Smith had seen the defendants come out of the dark wood line with masks around their necks and was suspicious of their activity. Based on his training, experience and instinct, he turned around to go back to the Valero.
When Officer Smith entered the parking lot, both suspects were exiting the Valero and when they saw Officer Smith, they began to run, with Flournoy tripping on the curb.
Officer Smith saw the firearm when Flournoy exited the store and when the defendants started to run, he released K9 Officer Rambo to assist in the apprehension of the suspects.
Officer Smith was quickly able to apprehend Lester behind the store and K9 Officer Rambo quickly apprehended Flournoy behind the store.
Fellow Spalding County Sheriff’s Deputies and Griffin Police Department Officers arrived thereafter to assist Officer Smith in securing the defendants and recovering the firearm. An additional mask and firearm were located in the wood line as well.
“The perceptiveness and follow-through of Officer Smith in recognizing something was not right was key to immediately apprehending the suspects in this armed robbery,” said Assistant District Attorney Holliday. “Also key to securing a conviction and ensuring Flournoy and Lester, as well as other criminals who attempt armed robberies of convenience stores are taken off the streets of Spalding County, was the security cameras at the Valero store.
There were multiple cameras throughout the store and on the perimeter of the store that captured this armed robbery from the beginning to the end,” Holliday noted. “This crime was terrifying for the victims and will continue to cause fear for the victims as they move forward with their lives.
“Because of the overwhelming evidence in this case, the three victims will not have to go through the additional trauma of participating in a trial and Flournoy and Lester will have plenty of time to reconsider their life paths while sitting in prison,” Assistant D.A. Holliday said.
“I am grateful to the K9 Officer Smith, K9 Officer Rambo and the members of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office that assisted in this case. I am also grateful for the assistance of Investigator Misty Gresham and Victim-Advocate Dericka Pruitt of the District Attorney’s Office for all their hard work in preparing this case for trial.” ADA Holliday stated. She continued by stating, “this community cannot tolerate the actions of individuals like Andy Flournoy and Benjamin Lester who think it is okay to terrorize innocent victims for their own gain”
“I echo the sentiments of ADA Holliday,” said District Attorney Marie Broder. “My office will continue to tell those in this Circuit that pursue their own financial gain by committing armed robberies that we will not tolerate it. This case also speaks to the importance of local businesses having security cameras on their property, as that was one of the keys to immediately solving this case. My offices will continue to partner with law enforcement to ensure that those that commit violent crimes are held responsible for their actions.”