DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Florida

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, December 26, 2023
Roger B. Handberg
, United States Attorney

Fort Myers Felon Sentenced to More Than 33 Years in Prison for Carjacking Spree and Firearms Offense

FORT MYERS, Fla. — U.S. District Judge Sheri Polster Chappell today sentenced Edward James Bess III, 29, of Fort Myers, to 33 years and four months in federal prison for carjacking causing serious bodily injury, discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and carjacking. The court also ordered Bess to forfeit the firearm and ammunition he used and illegally possessed. Bess pleaded guilty to the offenses on July 6.

According to court documents, on the night of Nov. 24, 2021, Bess approached Victim 1 in the parking lot of a business located on Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers while Victim 1 was standing near his pickup truck. Bess confronted Victim 1 and demanded Victim 1’s keys while brandishing a Cobra model CA380, .380 firearm. As Victim 1 moved towards the front driver door area of his vehicle to retrieve a firearm for protection, a struggle ensued, and Bess shot Victim 1 in his lower abdomen area. After being shot, Victim 1 ran to the other side of the vehicle and Bess entered Victim 1’s truck. Very shortly after, Bess exited the truck and chased Victim 1 while holding and pointing Victim 1’s firearm, a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson. Bess then shot Victim 1 in the leg using Victim 1’s firearm and retrieved Victim 1’s car keys. Bess entered the pickup truck again and fled the area.

The next day, Bess abandoned Victim 1’s truck along I-75 in Sumter County. That evening, around 6:30 p.m., Bess approached Victim 2 as he was unloading luggage from his SUV in a hotel parking lot in Wildwood. Bess approached Victim 2, brandishing a black firearm, and demanded that Victim 2 hand over his wallet, phone and car keys. Bess entered Victim 2’s SUV and fled the area. Deputies from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office immediately responded to the area. Moments later, SCSO deputies located Bess driving Victim 2’s vehicle near County Road 229. As deputies attempted to initiate a traffic stop, Bess sped off and a high-speed chase ensued. The stolen vehicle eventually came to a stop, after it crashed through a fence and drove into a wooded area. Bess exited the vehicle and eventually surrendered to SCSO deputies.

The next day, a Cobra .380 firearm was found at the entrance of a residence near the area of the high-speed chase. The firearm did not have a magazine in its magazine well. A SCSO Crime Scene Specialist later located a .380 magazine under the front driver seat of Victim 2’s stolen vehicle. DNA evidence later linked Bess to the .380 firearm. Additionally, ballistic testing revealed a .380 casing recovered from the Fort Myers carjacking incident and shooting matched a test-fired cartridge casing from the Cobra .380 recovered in Sumter County. Additionally, DNA swabs taken from inside of Victim 1’s stolen truck, as well as items left in the truck, were also linked to Bess’s DNA.   

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Fort Myers Police Department and the SCSO. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Trent Reichling.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results.

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Tampa Field Division