For Immediate Release
Columbia Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Firearm
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Columbia, Mo., man who was in a vehicle that led police officers in a pursuit pleaded guilty in federal court today to illegally possessing a firearm.
Justin Craig Ewing, 30, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Willie J. Epps, Jr., to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Ewing admitted that he was in possession of a loaded Browning .40-caliber handgun.
On Dec. 22, 2017, police officers attempted to stop a 2006 Chevy Impala driven by Jeremy Wade Gerlach, 36, of Harrisburg, Mo., in which Ewing was the passenger. Officers, who were seeking to arrest Gerlach, pulled in behind the parked vehicle at the Days Inn Motel, 900 I-70 Drive Southwest, Columbia, Mo. As officers approached the vehicle on foot, the Impala fled north through a grassy area next to the motel. As another patrol vehicle arrived from the east side of the motel, the Impala swerved left to go around them and crashed into an electric pole. An officer ran up to the vehicle and pointed his gun at the occupants. When the officer realized Gerlach was trying to put the vehicle in reverse, he ran back to his patrol vehicle and used it to pinch in the rear of the Impala to prevent escape and further jeopardy to officers.
When officers approached the vehicle, the driver’s side windows were up and the doors were locked. An officer used his baton to break the driver’s window, and officers pulled Gerlach out of the Impala through the broken driver’s side window.
When officers removed Gerlach and Ewing from the vehicle, they saw the Browning handgun (which had been reported as stolen) lying on the floorboard where Ewing had been sitting. Ewing was wearing a shoulder handgun holster. Officers also found a loaded Rock Island Armory .45-caliber handgun wedged between the driver’s seat and center console.
Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Ewing has four prior felony convictions for forgery and prior felony convictions for burglary, resisting arrest, possession of a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance, and unlawful use of a weapon.
Gerlach pleaded guilty on Oct. 9, 2018, to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Under federal statutes, Ewing and Gerlach are each subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence E. Miller. It was investigated by the Columbia, Mo., Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with federal, state, and local law enforcement to specifically identify criminals responsible for significant violent crime in the Western District of Missouri. A centerpiece of this effort is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods is an evidence-based program that identifies the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develops comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.