Life in prison for Reno bank robber who killed customer

RENO — A Nevada man with a criminal history spanning five decades has been sentenced to life in prison for killing an 80-year-old bank customer during an armed robbery in Reno in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du sentenced Van McDuffy, 69, on Monday to two consecutive life sentences after a federal jury convicted him in August of bank robbery with a dangerous weapon resulting in death and use of a firearm during a crime of violence causing death.

McDuffy, who also went by McDuffie, fled with $13,000 after he fatally shot the customer who told him to “get out of here” during the robbery at a Bank of America branch on South Virginia Street in October 2013, federal prosecutors say.

McDuffy “was callous and killed an innocent man who was trying to prevent the bank robbery,” U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said in a statement Tuesday.

The victim, Charles Sperry, was a Vietnam veteran who served 24 years in the U.S. Marines. He died at the scene.

McDuffy had been arrested 62 times previously for a variety of crimes dating to 1967, federal prosecutors say.

After shooting Sperry, McDuffy took money from the first bank teller then moved to a second teller, who he threatened at gunpoint and obtained more money before running into the street, prosecutors said.

An off-duty Reno police officer who was in the bank at the time followed McDuffy outside after calling 911, FBI special agent Erron Terry said in an affidavit.

The officer tackled McDuffy at a bus stop across the street from Meadowood mall, rendered him unconscious and took his gun while waiting for other officers to arrive, Terry said. The money was recovered from the sidewalk where he was apprehended.

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