Coming down from a two-day bender in which he burned through hundreds of dollars at a strip club, Richard Inman, desperate and broke, observed how few customers were inside the Bank of America branch that Saturday morning. With less than $40 in his account, the former South Carolina police chief wrote a note on the hood of his car. Inside the bank in Simpsonville, S.C., on June 24, 2017, Inman, a round, bald man with a goatee, handed a teller the message.
“This is a robbery,” it read. “I have a gun. No dye-packs! $2,000 cash. No alarms. Don’t cry out, stay calm.”
Without a fuss, the employee handed him an envelope of 20 $100 bills. “Have a nice day,” he told the manager, according to the Post and Courier. When the bank surveillance footage aired on television, his former law enforcement colleagues were baffled to see their ex-boss robbing a bank — in part because he did not even wear a mask.
But the act also followed a recent pattern of bizarre behavior for the 17-year veteran of law enforcement. It had all started, Inman told the Post and Courier this week, after he underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2009.
“It wasn’t this big thing where I’ve done all this research and planned it out,” Inman, 50, said of the bank robbery. “I just walked in there and did that like I was ordering a pizza.”
Now, Inman, who pleaded guilty to the 2017 incident, has been back in jail for about five months and awaiting trial after allegedly robbing a second South Carolina bank in March. In a feature published Sunday by the Post and Courier, the former police chief says he blames his brain tumor for the past 10 tumultuous years, in which the decorated law enforcement official resigned over offensive Facebook posts and lost his family.
He has called the brain surgery to remove a nonmalignant tumor from the right side of his frontal lobe, a part of his brain overseeing judgment and impulse control, a “curse” on his life.
“I had the surgery, and it’s just like the wheels came off,” Inman told the newspaper. “It’s just — every decision I made was bad. And it had an impact on me, you know, on my family life, on my career.”
Inman’s turn from police chief to bank robber could be the latest and weirdest case of how an injury or surgery to the brain can dramatically alter an individual’s personality. The known history of such personality shifts dates to Phineas Gage, the 19th-century railway worker who went from shrewd and intelligent to aggressive and impulsive after an incident in which an iron rod shot through the front of his brain, according to the BBC.
After working at multiple agencies throughout South Carolina starting in 1994, Inman was hired as chief of the Williamston Police Department in July 2009, a decision met with praise in the town of about 4,200 people. His goal, he said in his hiring announcement, was “to see every citizen treated with fairness and respect,” according to the Anderson Independent-Mail. His history degree from Presbyterian College and strong recommendations impressed residents, and his programs focusing on a neighborhood watch and weeding out drug dealers in the area were instant hits, the New York Times reported.
“He really came here and went to work and went after the drug dealers and was cleaning that up,” Carthel Crout, a former mayor of Williamston, told WYFF. Phyllis Lollis, then the city administrator, echoed the sentiment. “He changed things around here,” she said to the Post and Courier.
Only about a month into the job, Inman suffered a seizure. Doctors found the police chief had a meningioma, a common type of brain tumor, that had been growing on the right side of his frontal lobe for a decade. It was not malignant, but the softball-sized tumor needed to be removed, according to the Post and Courier.
Somewhat miraculously, Inman returned to the job only weeks after surgery. But something was off about Inman, who called the period “kind of a fog to me.” Once warm, affable and sharp, the chief was now cold, distant and slow. Respectful and funny banter was replaced with crude remarks to colleagues.
“When he came back, he was totally different,” Lollis said to the Times, “and we knew that he was on a lot of medication.” Crout told WYFF that Inman “was never the same after” the surgery. Colleagues told the Post and Courier that he lost impulse control in his everyday conversation, almost as if he lacked a filter.
In August 2011, Inman, who is white, resigned from the police department after sharing offensive jokes about Mexicans and African Americans to his personal Facebook page. Inman told WSPA that he thought the posts were funny and did not reflect his approach to policing. He called his wife to share the news of his resignation.
“What did you expect?” Inman said his wife told him, according to the Post and Courier. Days later, she left him.
For the next few years, Inman struggled with alcoholism and depression before going to rehab. As he was driving on June 22, 2017, to meet his grown sons in Greenville, S.C., for the weekend, Inman, who was then sober and had found work at a hardware store, stopped at a Motel 6, and then drove to the Trophy Room, a strip club where he relapsed and spent almost all of his $763 paycheck during two days of drinking, according to the Post and Courier.
“It’s almost like I could just block the consequences out of my mind and say, ‘Well, if this doesn’t work, we’ll go from there,’” he told the Post and Courier. “All I could think about was how mad my mom was going to be if I had to call her and ask for money for gas. How ticked off she’d be that I spent my entire paycheck.”
Footage of the Simpsonville robbery led friends to message him on Facebook, where Inman admitted he did it.
“Holy (expletive), Richard,” one friend wrote, according to police logs reviewed by the newspaper.
“It’s really hard to explain,” he replied. He added: "I just don’t have any hope.”
Crout, the former mayor, saw the incident as something more than just an alleged robbery.
“I hate to see this happen to a good man, but I also think that this might be a cry out for help,” said Crout, according to WYFF. “Why would a man in his hometown of Fountain Inn and Simpsonville rob a bank in broad daylight with no disguise, no anything?”
He pleaded guilty in 2018 and was sentenced to four years of probation.
But less than two years later, on March 22, Inman walked into another Bank of America branch, this time in Pawleys Island, S.C. Again, he allegedly slipped a note to a bank teller and claimed to be armed, the Independent-Mail reported. With another envelope of money, Inman was pursued by the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office and was eventually shot by police, suffering non-life-threatening injuries. The Greenville News reported that he later confessed.
The case against Inman in the second alleged robbery is still pending, the Post and Courier reported. Nowadays, his mother, Carol, keeps him updated on his sons, only one of whom is speaking to him, and supports him however she can.
“Richard’s life is ruined,” she told the newspaper.
Inman still has difficulty spelling out his motives. He thinks back to how relieved he was after a doctor told him in 2009 that he was going to be okay following the brain surgery. There was a sense of hope that life would return to normal once the tumor was removed.
“Not so much, now,” he told the Post and Courier.
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