pope photo that needs to be clippedTERRICA HENDRIX

    For months since January 11, 1996, a lost, 17-year-old boy was constantly looking over his shoulders and anticipating if “it” would happen. May 3, 1996 was a warm afternoon in Texas when Brandon Pope and his partner in crime (literally) were playing basketball outside. Suddenly, the sound of patrol cars was deafening and the flashing lights from six units surrounded Pope and his friend. Pope knew what was about to happen – “it” was finally happening and he could finally be a peace. Brandon first held up an E-Z Mart in Atlanta, Texas when he was 15-years-old
    . He demanded that the scared cashier give him all of the money and they complied. Brandon didn’t need the money at all. He never got caught for that crime. To this day, he doesn’t have an explanation for why he did that other than “maybe it was for the rush” of it. He and his brothers grew up with his stepdad, Dana Pope. Dana Pope provided the boys with ever thing they need – as long as it was financial and material. Brandon said his stepdad was a good man but wasn’t a family man and “was also the type who didn’t care what we did as long as we were never around him.”
    The second time he – along with his best friend – held up a convenience store was on Jan., 11, 1996. “I stayed with my best friend, Cody, and his parents were asleep,” he remembered. They took a hunting rifle and went to an EZ Mart in Atlanta, Texas and waited until a train came across the tracks (to block traffic) then they rushed into the store. Brandon recalled the look of horror on the cashier’s face when he pointed the gun at her. “She was shaking” and so scared. That’s one look that he will never clear his mind of. They left with about $40 in cash and snacks. It was money they didn’t need. A few hours later, they decided to do the same thing at a store in the College Hill area of Texarkana. They noticed a police officer parked near the store and they continued to circle around the store. The police officer pulled them over and they thought they had been caught. “We had just robbed the EZ Mart in Atlanta and this cop pulls us over…the cop saw the gun in the back seat, the snacks all on the back seat , my friend still had his doo-rag on his neck. The cop pulls out our gun and there was a bullet in the chamber. My friend didn’t have a driver’s license, the car’s license was expired and we had no insurance. Then the cop says to us, ‘You are two kids in a high crime neighborhood and you need to take your butts home.” The two teens only received a curfew ticket and they laughed about what they just got away with as they drove back home to Atlanta. Brandon’s friend couldn’t keep the store robbery a secret and he told several friends and word made it to law enforcement.
    He and his friend were arrested on May 3 for one count of robbery and three counts of burglary and sentenced to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. “I told the officer to give me a pen and paper so I could write out my confession,” Brandon remembered. He admitted that he was tired of wondering if they would get caught for the crimes they committed.
    May 3, marked 20 years since Brandon was arrested for the felonies. Brandon decided to tell all of his friends on Facebook what he went through. He posted, “I’ve debated all day whether or not to make this post. But today’s date, May 3, is a date that has always meant something to me. Twenty years ago today, May 3, 1996 at the young age of 17, I was arrested and sitting in a jail cell in Cass County Texas charged with four felonies that I had committed. I know most of you who know me now would have never guessed that about me. I’m laid back and usually cracking a joke to make people smile. I won’t deny the fact that I spent over two years locked up for one count of robbery and three counts of burglary. I was a lost 17 year old kid with no hope, but it made me the man I am today.”
    Brandon vowed to himself that he would help anyone who seems like they might take the same path. “If what I’ve been through will help one person, then I’ll do whatever it takes to at least be there for them and try to steer them in the right direction…Kids need someone to be involved in their lives.”
    Brandon has not been in trouble with the law since then. His mother has always been his rock. “She’s everything to me. She gives me advice solely based on the Holy Bible. She either has a Bible or a frying pan in her hand. My mom still wears the apron that I made her in the 8th grade.”
    He and his wife, Sydney (a Nashville High School graduate), have two children: Jayden, 13, and Journey, 11. They attend First Baptist Church and Pope credits his relationship with Jesus Christ and his wife as his “saving grace.”

    Brandon Pope is a survivalist and a self-admitted "fitness nut" who dedicates his free time to lifting weights and spending time with his children - Jayden and Journey - teaching them survival skills, Bushcraft, and enjoying the outdoors. He is pictured with his son, Jayden, 13, after a workout session at Flex Gym in Nashville.
    Brandon Pope is a survivalist and a self-admitted “fitness nut” who dedicates his free time to lifting weights and spending time with his children – Jayden and Journey – teaching them survival skills, Bushcraft, and enjoying the outdoors. He is pictured with his son, Jayden, 13, after a workout session at Flex Gym in Nashville.

    “Being saved by Jesus is the upmost importance to me. We raise our kids in church.” His beautiful wife, Sydney, is the backbone of his family and “the glue that holds” us together. Her calm, grounded upbringing balanced out Brandon’s nonchalant childhood. Sydney has constantly inspired Brandon and their kids to focus on making themselves the best they can be. When you first meet Brandon, his large muscles, tattoos, and tall frame will grab your attention. He is a gentle giant at heart. He spends his free time with his children, and working out at Flex Gym in Nashville and learning about fitness. He is obsessed with Bushcraft and is a survivalist. He loves to give his kids the love and affection he lacked as a child. He and Sydney tell their kids every morning to “make good choices.”
    “I thank God every day for the people I have in my life and those who want to see me succeed. I have so many things to be thankful for but most importantly I thank God for the people you see in this picture. I haven’t always been the best husband or dad 100 percent of the time but who has?,” he asked. “I strive each day to be better. God knows I love my wife and kids more than life itself. They are my world. They definitely bring out the best in me. I’m just so thankful for everything God has blessed me with. Life is what you make it. Don’t take the little things for granted and always strive to be better than you were yesterday. Just because you’ve made a mistake doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it. Keep moving forward and live life to the fullest,” he ended.

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