U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Western District of Missouri
Western District of Missouri
For Immediate Release
April 7, 2011
Beth Phillips, United States Attorney
Contact: Don Ledford, Public Affairs
St. Joseph Man Sentenced for Illegal Firearms After Shooting at Officers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a St. Joseph, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for illegally possessing firearms that he used to shoot law enforcement officers during a standoff at his home.
Christopher A. Punzo, 42, of St. Joseph, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to 10 years in federal prison without parole, the maximum statutory sentence.
On Dec. 8, 2010, Punzo pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a Norinco SKS 7.62mm rifle and an FIE .22-caliber revolver. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Among Punzo’s prior felony convictions is a federal conviction for being a felon in possession of ammunition, as well as state convictions for stealing, tampering, possession of a controlled substance and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident.
According to court documents, Punzo barricaded himself in a bedroom at his residence for several hours on March 22, 2010. Punzo, armed with two firearms, resisted law enforcement officers' attempts to coax him out so that they could arrest him. When officers entered the room, Punzo attempted to fire a revolver. Punzo then pointed the assault rifle at the officers and fired, striking one of the officers in his holstered firearm. Punzo attempted to fire again, but the rifle jammed and one of the officers grabbed the barrel and took the rifle away from Punzo.
Officers with the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force had attempted to arrest Punzo during a car stop on March 10, 2010, in regard to an ongoing drug trafficking investigation. Punzo, however, failed to stop and instead sped away from the officers in a dangerous manner. At the time, Punzo was on federal supervised release after serving a prison term for being a felon in possession of ammunition. Punzo was charged in state court with resisting arrest and creating a substantial risk of serious injury or death. Due to Punzo’s violation of the terms of his supervised release, a federal warrant for Punzo's arrest was issued on March 17, 2010. Law enforcement officers executed the warrant on March 22, 2010, when Punzo barricaded himself in his house.
After several hours of negotiation, officers deployed three rounds of tear gas into the bedroom, but Punzo refused to surrender. When officers entered the room to take Punzo into custody, he was lying on a bed with a revolver in his hand. Punzo raised the revolver and pointed it at the officers. One of the officers shot Punzo with bean bags, causing him to drop the revolver. After Punzo dropped the revolver, he grabbed the assault rifle and fired at one of the officers.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Y. Tabor. It was investigated by the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department, the U.S. Marshall Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Project Ceasefire, launched in October 1999, is a cooperative initiative by federal and local law enforcement and the Kansas City Crime Commission that targets for federal prosecution persons who unlawfully use or possess firearms