NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The three men convicted of robbing a bank and leading police on a dangerous chase in 2009, were sentenced to serve 20 years in prison for the attempted murder of three police officers.
Anthony Peterson, 47, James Holmes, 58, and James King, 56, all from Essex County, pleaded guilty last month to one count of armed robbery, and three counts of attempted murder for firing at the police officers.
After fleeing the scene of the robbery at the Bank of America on Route 27 in Franklin Township, they fired once during a chase through North Brunswick and twice more near St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick on March 12, 2009.
A fourth accomplice, James Phillips, passed away on three weeks later, from the injuries sustained in the shootout.
The other three men will serve state prison terms that run concurrent to the federal prison sentences from the bank robbery. They must complete 85 percent of the sentences, before they can be eligible for parole.
Peterson was sentenced to serve 47 years, King is serving 19 years, and Holmes is serving 18 years in federal prison.
Superior Court Judge Bradley Ferencz was told that the men stole more than $94,000 in cash, money orders, and traveler checks from the bank as well as a security guard’s handgun.
The men then took off, switched stolen getaway cars, and fired at a police detective who was following them during a high-speed chase through North Brunswick. A Franklin Township police car crashed into a restaurant during the chase.
The fleeing robbers eventually crashed into a security gate at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick. As the men tried escaping, they fired numerous rounds at the police who returned fire.
Three of the four robbers were shot, and Phillips later died from his injuries. No police officers were injured in the chase and shootout.
Peterson told the judge that the police officers lied to hide the fact that they killed Phillips.
New Brunswick police officer Michael Coppola, one of the officers who confronted the four at the hospital, told the judge “They are career criminals. They don’t have anything else to contribute to society.”
“I made a choice that day to uphold the law and they made a different choice,” said Coppola. “You have to send a message that you can’t break the law.”
Coppola and four other New Brunswick officers, as well as a North Brunswick detective, were recognized for their role in the shootout as "Top Cops" by President Obama during a ceremony held at the White House.