JACKSON, Tenn. — After a three-day jury trial in October 2019, a federal jury convicted Gene Allen Howell, 39, of Selmer, Tenn. of two counts of aggravated bank robbery, two counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

On July 20, Howell was sentenced to 38 years in federal prison, said D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney.

According to information presented in court, on August 25, 2017, Howell robbed the Home Banking Company located in Finger, Tenn. using a handgun. He pointed the handgun at all three female employees and threatened to kill them if they did not comply with his commands. Howell had stolen a utility vehicle from Selmer, which he rode to the bank and used thereafter to evade capture. The utility vehicle was later found abandoned in a wooded area.

On October 14, 2017 Howell attempted to rob The Peoples Bank located in Reagan, Tenn. using a .45-caliber pistol. He hid nearby, and attempted to accost two bank employees as they arrived for work, but they had just entered the secure tellers’ area in the bank. Unable to gain access to the teller area, Howell fired the pistol at the head of one of the employees, but she was protected by bullet resistant glass.

Howell and his co-defendant, who served as the getaway driver, were arrested 10 days later in Alcorn County on drug charges. Law enforcement found in Howell’s possession two pistols, including one used in the Reagan shooting; ammunition; and clothing worn during the robberies. The co-defendant testified against Howell at trial, and entered a guilty plea.

Howell has an extensive criminal history, including prior convictions for aggravated assault, theft and drug charges. Chief Judge Anderson took special note of the danger Howell posed to the public as well as his extensive criminal history as aggravating circumstances when imposing the lengthy sentence, said Dunavant.

Howell was sentenced before Chief U.S. District Court Judge S. Thomas Anderson to 466 months in federal prison followed by eight years supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

Dunavant said, “Violent crime affects and endangers all communities in West Tennessee, both urban and rural. Howell’s brazen and disturbing armed robbery of two small community banks terrorized the rural community and inflicted fear and harm on multiple victims. This lengthy sentence is just punishment for his violent and recidivist criminal conduct, and the citizens of McNairy and Henderson Counties are safer because he has been removed from the community.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Henderson County Sheriff’s Department, McNairy County Sheriff’s Department, Chester County Sheriff’s Department and Alcorn County Sheriff’s Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matt Wilson and Josh Morrow prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.


A 1981 University of Tennessee - Martin graduate, Mark Boehler has over 40 years of journalism experience. His wife Dawn is the love of his life and they share five grown children and 10 grandchildren. His passion is his work - writing and photography.

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